What Evidence Can Be Used Against You in a DUI Case?
When the government brings criminal charges against you, it is up to the prosecutor to prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. To do that, prosecutors gather and present different types of evidence to the judge or jury. Determining what evidence can be used against you in a DUI case is important, as it helps you identify the strength of the government’s case. In turn, this may inform your New Mexico DUI charges attorney on how to best defend against the allegations you face.
Common Examples of DUI Case Evidence
When prosecutors put together a New Mexico DUI case, they rely on several types of evidence. While every case is different, some of the most common types of DUI case evidence include:
- Breathalyzer test results;
- A police officer’s crash report;
- Eyewitness testimony;
- Open containers of alcohol in the car;
- Drugs found in your vehicle; and
- Statements you made to police officers.
Of course, this is an incomplete list, and just because evidence is on this list does not mean that it is automatically admissible in a DUI case.
Admissible Versus Inadmissible Evidence
One of the judge’s roles in a criminal trial is to determine which evidence is admissible. Not all evidence that indicates you committed the crime is admissible. Likewise, not all evidence that suggests you were innocent is admissible. When making evidentiary decisions, courts rely on the New Mexico Rules of Evidence as well as the state and federal constitutions.
Relevant Versus Irrelevant Evidence
Often, the first question that comes up when determining if evidence is admissible is whether it is relevant. A judge or jury may only consider relevant evidence. New Mexico Rule of Evidence 11-401 explains that evidence is relevant if “it has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence, and . . . the fact is of consequence in determining the action.”
Essentially, this means that to be relevant, evidence must weigh on a material issue in the case and help the judge or jury resolve the issue. For example, generally speaking, the fact that you have a prior arrest or conviction is not relevant. This is because the law does not allow judges or jurors to base someone’s guilt on the fact they’ve committed a crime in the past.
That said, evidence of a past conviction or arrest may be admissible for certain purposes. It is important to discuss any prior arrests or convictions with a New Mexico criminal charges defense attorney to determine the likelihood that the court will allow the prosecution to rely on the evidence at trial.
Illegally Obtained Evidence
Just because evidence is relevant does not mean that the judge or jury can consider it. One of the most common defenses in a New Mexico DUI case involves challenging the admissibility of evidence by arguing that the government illegally obtained it.
When police investigate a DUI crime, they must respect your constitutional rights. Generally, this means they cannot infringe upon your freedom unless they have probable cause or reasonable suspicion to believe you committed a crime. For example, police officers cannot pull you over for no reason. Similarly, if a police officer pulls you over for a burnt-out headlight, they cannot automatically ask you to take a breath test. Essentially, police officers need to justify their actions by pointing to facts that support their conclusions.
Common examples of illegally obtained evidence include:
- Statements you made while under arrest without being provided your Miranda warnings;
- Physical evidence resulting from an illegal search;
- Unreliable chemical test results; and
- Results of a chemical test taken in violation of your constitutional rights.
In many cases, if a judge suppresses important evidence, the government will have no choice but to withdraw certain charges. Even if the government can proceed in theory, the suppression of evidence may result in a more favorable plea offer. If you face a New Mexico DUI offense, it is important you discuss your case with a lawyer as soon as possible. A lawyer may be able to keep unfavorable evidence out of trial, increasing your chances of beating the charges.
Direct Versus Circumstantial Evidence
One of the most common areas of confusion around DUI case evidence involves the difference between direct and circumstantial evidence. Direct evidence is evidence that, if believed, directly proves a fact. For example, the results from a blood-alcohol test indicating your blood-alcohol content was .12 is direct evidence of intoxication. While direct evidence tends to be strong, it is not available in every case. Prosecutors may also rely on circumstantial evidence.
Circumstantial evidence requires the judge or jury to make one or more inferences that may bear on their decision of guilt or innocence. For example, in some New Mexico DUI cases, prosecutors will not have chemical test results. Instead, they may present evidence that you appeared to be intoxicated. Examples of circumstantial evidence in a DUI case include the following.
- Unsafe driving;
- The fact you caused an accident;
- The presence of drugs or alcohol in the car; and
- A police officer’s observations of intoxication.
In other words, circumstantial evidence asks the judge or jury to infer guilt based on evidence that does not directly prove guilt. Some circumstantial evidence is quite compelling and should not be written off based on the fact it doesn’t directly prove you were under the influence.
Contact a New Mexico DUI Charges Defense Attorney to Learn More About What Evidence Can Be Used Against You in a DUI Case
If you face DUI charges, reach out to the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices as soon as possible. At our DUI defense law firm, we represent clients facing all types of traffic offenses, including DUI charges. We command an in-depth understanding of what evidence can be used against you in a DUI case and use this knowledge to develop an effective defense. To learn more and to schedule a free consultation with one of our New Mexico criminal charges defense lawyers, call 505-200-2982. You can also reach us through our online form.