Eminence Woman Charged With DUI And Murder
In a case that smacks of overagressive DUI prosecution, Henry County prosecutors pressed murder charges against a 27-year-old woman following a fatal collision.
Responding to a 9-1-1 tip, police arrived at a crash scene on Lake Jericho Road. According to witnesses, the driver crossed the center line and crashed into 34-year-old Louisville resident, who was pronounced dead at the scene. Apparently after seeing open alcohol containers in her car, officers had the driver perform field sobriety tests and then sent her to a hospital for a blood test.
In addition to murder, DUI, and open container violation, the driver was also cited for failure to produce an insurance card.
Officers must have reasonable suspicion of criminal activity to pull over vehicles, and in most cases, they actually see a crime taking place, even if the “crime” is a minor traffic violation. But in other cases, officers respond to a third-party tip. In terms of reliability, these tips are evaluated on their face. The prosecutor cannot argue that the tip must have been reliable because it was accurate, since even a blind squirrel occasionally finds a nut.
- Time: received tips are almost infinitely more reliable than stale ones, especially in DUI prosecution cases.
- Content: A general tip, like “a white pickup,” is not as reliable as a specific tip, like “a white Silverado with Kentucky plates headed westbound on XYZ Road.”
- Source: Anonymous tips are extremely questionable and usually need corroboration; officer tips are on the other end of the reliability scale.
Courts use a totality-of-the-circumstances analysis to determine whether the officer had probable cause to make the stop or arrest based on the tip.
Collision DUI Prosecution Cases
In crash cases, prosecutors must “wheel” the defendant, because the offense is driving a motor vehicle while intoxicated. If there is no reliable witness who actually saw the defendant driving, the case is seriously compromised, because the prosecutor has the burden of proof on this and all other DUI prosecution elements.
The defense is even better if there was a passenger in the car along with the defendant.
Prosecutors nearly always file DUI manslaughter charges in these instances, because manslaughter is basically an unintentional killing. In the above case, there seems to be no evidence that Ms. Davila intended to kill Mr. Payton, or anyone else for that matter.
In fact, murder is a specific intent crime, because the defendant must intend both the conduct (hurting the victim) and the result (killing the victim). Other specific intent crimes include theft, false imprisonment, and conspiracy. This point is significant because intoxication is a defense to specific intent crimes. Intoxication is not a defense to general intent crimes, like manslaughter, assault, and arson.
In nearly all DUI prosecution cases, attorneys file the most severe charges that the facts can support. Possibly, the lawyer filing charges erroneously thought that the open container justified murder instead of manslaughter charges.
Aggravated DUI prosecutions often involve nuanced legal questions. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Glasgow, contact Attorney Gary S. Logsdon. Home and jail visits are available.