Question

  01/03/13, 4:04 pm
I was involved in an accident and charged with DUI. I have never had any legal or alcohol-related problems nor have I driven under the influence before but my daughter died a few days before and I was extremely upset, hence the drinking. My judgement was so impaired that I drank to excess at home then drove to the liquor store, bought a bottle of rum and attempted to drive back home, which is when I was involved in the accident. When the police arrived, I was disoriented from the accident, upset, sobbing and saying that I had just lost a baby. The rum bottle was on the passenger seat and I refused the blood alcohol test. I was in so much shock that day that I have a hard time remembering all of the facts but I do realize I made a series of terrible mistakes that day, am trying to get my life back together but also trying to minimize the effects of that day on top of everything else that I am going through. My first question is with regard to the liquor store: is there any way to hold the liquor store liable for selling me the alcohol when I was already so intoxicated? The drive from the store to the accident was less than 3 minutes and, while the police said that the alcohol bottle was half-full at the time of the accident, I was physically incapable of having that much to drink in that period of time (I called the bank to find out when the debit charge from the store occurred and it was less than 10 minutes prior to the accident) and had to have been visibly intoxicated at the store. My second question is with regard to the DUI charge: is there any way to dispute the charge of DUI if it was my emotional distress that caused the accident and not the alcohol? I have never had any legal problems before this. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!
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United States   |   Pennsylvania  |  Drunk Driving & DUI Law
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Answer

Jason Dunkle Says:

Jan 04,2013 8:19 AM

With regard to the DUI case, when you refuse the blood test, the police charge with you a violation of DUI that says that you had imbibed a sufficient amount of alcohol such that you were rendered incapable of safe driving. Basically, it is a charge that says that you were too drunk to drive safely. How does the DA/cops prove their case in this situation? They present circumstantial evidence that you were drinking. The officer will probably note that you have blood shot eyes, possibly slurred speech, difficulty standing, swaying..... Given the fact that you were in accident and were upset/emotional, I understand that bloodshot eyes can result from crying, difficulty standing/swaying could have resulted from the accident. With this being a first offense of DUI, the maximum sentence is 6 months incarceration, which means that you do NOT have the right to a jury trial. You only have the right to have a trial before a judge. At a trial, it would be the judge's role to determine whether you were too drunk to drive safely or not. Obviously, the fact that you were in an accident is a big negative factor unless the accident can be explained away based upon weather conditions. As a first time offender, you may be eligible for ARD. Some counties do not allow ARD in refusal cases, but some do. I recommend that you contact an experienced defense lawyer in your area to discuss your case in detail and weight your options. Most defense lawyers offer free consultations, so it won't cost you anything. With regard to suing the liquor store, I cannot answer that question as I do not handle civil cases. However, in your DUI case you are trying to assert that you were not too drunk to drive safely but were instead simply upset, but your argument for suing is that you were too drunk and that the store should not have served you. Most state stores have video surveillance, so there could be evidence as to how your were functioning before purchasing the alcohol. Also, instead of suing the state store, they would probably be supportive at your DUI trial because the staff would NOT want to admit that they sold alcohol to someone that was visibly drunk. The staff is likely to testify that you were functioning just fine and did not appear to be manifestly under the influence. Again, talk to a local criminal defense lawyer. I would recommend checking out the Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (PACDL) website, and you can access the attorney directory on their site.

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Jason Dunkle
JD Law, P.C.
204 East Calder Way, Suite 306,State College, PA 16801
814-954-9622
http://www.mystatecollegelawyer.com

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