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BAC for DUI Prosecution

(1) Can circumstantial evidence other than the results of chemical tests be used to prove that a driver's blood-alcohol content at the time of driving was the same as, or greater than, the results of a blood-alcohol test taken approximately an hour after driving? (2) Is the decision of the Court of Appeal consistent with the requirements of Evidence Code section 604 for proof of an initially presumed fact after the presumption has been rebutted?

Held: "A California Highway Patrol officer stopped a car driven by plaintiff Ashley Jourdan Coffey after he observed her driving erratically. Four subsequent chemical tests revealed her blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) ranged from 0.08 to 0.096 percent. The officer then confiscated plaintiff's driver's license and served her with a notice that her license would be suspended pursuant to Vehicle Code section 13382. In an administrative hearing to review the suspension, plaintiff's expert witness opined that her BAC was rising at the time of the chemical tests, suggesting her BAC was below the 0.08 percent threshold at the time plaintiff was driving. Both the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) hearing officer and the trial court discounted the expert's testimony in part by relying on arrest reports, which described the physical manifestations of plaintiff's intoxication, such as her general appearance, erratic driving, poor performance on field sobriety tests, and the strong odor of alcohol she projected.

"We decide in this case whether the trial court erred by considering, in addition to the results of breath and blood tests, other circumstantial evidence of intoxication to conclude by a preponderance of the evidence that plaintiff drove with a BAC at or above 0.08 percent. As we explain, we conclude the trial court did not err." (Coffey v. Shiomoto (2015) 60 Cal.4th 1198 (S213545). This case was decided on 4/6/2015.

Updated: 4/6/2015

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