MOTION IN LIMINE TO DETERMINE ADMISSIBILITY OF EVIDENCE THAT THE DECEDENT DRIVER WAS INTOXICATED
Comes Now, the Defendant, by and through the undersigned counsel of record, and respectfully moves this Honorable Court for a pre-trial ruling regarding the admissibility of evidence that the decedent driver was intoxicated at the time of this accident. In support of this motion, the Defendant respectfully shows this Honorable Court the following:
STATEMENT OF RELEVANT FACTS
1.The Defendant is charged with vehicular homicide in the 1st degree.
2.The decedent in this case was the driver of a vehicle that crashed into a vehicle operated by the Defendant.
3.The decedent was operating her vehicle with a blood-alcohol concentration of approximately .267 grams per 100 milliliter of blood – approximately 3 times the legal limit for drivers over the age of 21.
ARGUMENT AND CITATION OF AUTHORITY
At trial, the Defendant intends to introduce evidence that the decedent was operating her vehicle while in an extremely intoxicated condition, and her intoxication prevented her from taking appropriate actions to avoid this accident and minimize the possibility of the crash. The admissibility of this evidence is controlled by the Georgia Supreme Court's ruling in Crowe v. State, 591 S.E.2d 829 (Ga. 2004).
The Georgia Supreme Court has previously ruled that it was reversible error for a trial court to exclude evidence that the decedent driver was possibly intoxicated in a vehicular homicide case:
But evidence that [the decedent] may have been impaired by marijuana, and thereby less able to avoid the accident, would clearly be relevant to disputed issues in this case. In a vehicular homicide case, the conduct of all drivers involved in the accident is relevant to the extent it may impact the jury's determination of which driver's actions caused the injury, or whether the injury resulted from an unavoidable accident.
Id. at 830 (citations omitted)(emphasis added).
In Crowe, the Supreme Court went on to state:
The State argues that Lynch's possible impairment is irrelevant because the State's experts testified that Crowe's actions left Lynch with no way to avoid the accident. Although that may be true, it is a fact for the jury to decide. The jury is entitled to hear all the relevant evidence, judge the credibility of all the opposing witnesses, and make that decision for itself. The jury is not required to accept the State's experts' opinions. Whether or not Lynch was impaired, and whether or not her impairment contributed to the accident, was for the jury to determine.
The urinalysis evidence indisputably goes to the question of whether Lynch was impaired and whether that impairment contributed to the accident. Because the record reveals the factual possibility that Lynch was impaired at the time of the crash, and that her impairment may have contributed to the accident, the trial court erred when it prohibited Crowe from presenting the urinalysis evidence or cross-examining Lynch about her marijuana use prior to the crash. If that evidence had been admitted, the jury might have concluded that Lynch was an unsafe driver due to her impairment by marijuana. Such a conclusion would have affected the jury's determination of Crowe's guilt, and accordingly Crowe's conviction must be reversed.
Id. at 831 (citations omitted).
Crowe presented a troubling issue for the trial court and the Court of Appeals because the driver of the vehicle in which the decedents were traveling was alleged to be under the influence the of certain drugs that were detected in the driver's urine but not her blood. Because drug impairment was at issue in Crowe, the courts were forced to address complex issues of absorption, elimination, and duration of affects of drugs. Nonetheless, our Supreme Court held that possible impairment of another driver in a vehicular homicide case was undoubtedly relevant to the issue of causation of death. In Crowe, the Supreme Court held that the jury should be permitted to decide what weight, if any, it would place upon the impairment of the other driver. Following Crowe, the jury should be permitted to assess the affect of the impairment of the decedent driver in this case as well.
In this case, the decedent was under the influence of alcohol, and it is anticipated that the State's toxicologist will testify that alcohol has a highly predictable rate of absorption and elimination. It is anticipated that the State's toxicologist that performed the blood test upon the decedent's blood will also testify to the high degree of impairment that would be observed in a person that had a blood-alcohol concentration as high as the decedent's.
Evidence of the decedent's level of intoxication is relevant to the cause of the accident and death in this case. The jury should be permitted to hear this evidence and make a determination as to whether the decedent's level of intoxication contributed to causing the accident.
Wherefore, the Defendant respectfully prays that this Honorable Court:
- Conducts a pre-trial hearing on the admissibility of this evidence,
- Issues an order permitting the Defendant to introduce evidence of intoxication by the decedent driver, and
- Grants the Defendant such other and further relief as this Honorable Court deems just and equitable.
Respectfully Submitted, this 24th day of August, 2016.
State Bar No. XXXXXXXXXX
Attorney for Defendant
The Sessions Law Firm, LLC
115 M.L.K., Jr., Dr., SW, #410
Atlanta, GA 30303
Tel: (470) 225-7710
Fax: (678) 348-7165