OWIs: Elements Of The Crime

For you to be found guilty of an OWI at trial, the prosecution has to prove the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt for OWI second offenses and higher or by preponderance of the evidence for first offenses. The elements they have to prove is that the defendant was 1) operating a motor vehicle 2) while intoxicated. The first element just means that you had control over the vehicle and the second element means that you were under the influence of a chemical substance or over the blood alcohol limit of 0.08%.

There are different ways that the prosecution can prove that you had “control over the vehicle.” Their best cases are when the person was caught physically driving the car or with the car on. The tougher cases are when they approach the suspect while they are just sitting in the car with it turned off. For those types of instances, the prosecutors have to prove the element with circumstantial evidence. For example, did the officer note if the hood of the car was hot, was the defendant in the front seat behind the wheel, are there traffic cameras showing the driver, did the person admit to being the driver, is there anyone else at the scene, etc. The theory is basically if it wasn’t the defendant then who else could’ve driven them there.

The prosecution will normally prove the second element with the blood, breath, or urine results.  They will have the lab technician take the stand as an expert witness to explain what the results of the test were and how the test works. Again, there are some circumstances where it’s not as easy as just entering the test results into evidence. There are numerous reasons why the defense can argue that the results of those tests are reliable. There are issues such as chain of custody and how the blood was handled, whether the defendant was monitored for twenty minutes before the taking of his breath, whether the Intoximeter was expired or unreliable, etc. It is important for you or your attorney to look into the reliability of the test that was taken.

All you need at trial is to cast a shadow of doubt for a second offense and higher in order for the prosecution to fail to meet their burden. The two elements may seem very straight forward, but there are all types of factual situations that can make hard for the prosecution. Also the more there is to cast doubt, the better chances you also have to get a better plea deal from the prosecutor. Contact us today to set up a free consultation so that we can discuss facts of your case.