Field sobriety tests and physical manifestations (such as balance and ability to walk) are, at best, circumstantial evidence of my client's alleged impaired driving ability in most DUI cases. This evidence relates to the state's charge of DUI less safe charge in Georgia. And, in every Georgia DUI case that goes to trial, I have inevitably obtained a instruction to the jury which states:
To warrant a conviction on circumstantial evidence, the proved facts shall not only be consistent with the hypothesis of guilt, but shall exclude every other reasonable hypothesis save that of the guilt of the accused. The burden is on the State to present evidence that, beyond a reasonable doubt, excludes every other reasonable hypothesis except that of the guilt of the Defendant.
Once we understand the limitations of circumstantial evidence and the substantial hurdles created by the state's reliance upon circumstantial evidence, we can capitalize upon alternative explanations for our client's alleged indicia of impairment. In evaluating whether or not a medical condition or physical limitation could have affected a client's ability to perform a test, the DUI lawyer must be cognizant of the type of evidence you need to provide to the trier-of-fact (the judge or jury) in order to establish this type of defense. Reliance upon a defendant's testimony to establish physical limitations that are not evident has some inherent limitations and is certainly a pitfall for the unwary.
Professional medical testimony regarding the limitation is the preferred form of evidence to establish that the DUI suspect was not a proper candidate for field sobriety evaluations. Certain limitations are more obvious than others. For example, lower back injuries, leg injuries, prior surgeries that are established, not soft tissue injuries, are those types of injuries which we can point to and say confidently that the officer's observation that he or she related to alcohol or drug impairment could have been caused by these concrete conditions.
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