In North Carolina, and across the country, impaired driving is a leading cause to car accidents. It should be no surprise that research consistently shows that a person who consumes alcohol and then gets behind the wheel of a car and drives is far more likely to be involved in a vehicle accident than a person who drives completely sober. In fact, a recent study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates that a person who drives with a Breath Alcohol Concentration (BrAC) of 0.08 is four times more likely to be involved in a traffic accident than a sober driver; a person with a BrAC of 0.15 is 12 times more likely. As these statistics demonstrate, when a person is alleged to have been driving while impaired, far too often that person will have also been alleged to have been driving a vehicle that was involved in a traffic accident.
What Makes Proving Driving More Complicated for DWI Accident Cases?
The most litigated issue by lawyers in Charlotte DWI accident cases occurs when the defendant is involved in a car accident and there are not any witnesses. In a case such as this, the main issue becomes whether the State can prove that you were the driver of the vehicle. As is often the case in such DWI accidents - especially single car accidents - you are no longer in the car when the officer investigating the DWI accident arrives. Additionally, the accident scene is typically chaotic with a number of other individuals on scene, including passengers in the car involved in the accident, good Samaritans who stop to provide assistance, and even other emergency personnel. With so many people on scene, in many instances it becomes difficult for the State to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were the one driving the car in question instead of some other person who is on scene, or who may have even left the scene. Let's look at how your admission to driving the car in question to the investigating DWI officer changes this analysis.
Admission to Driving in a Charlotte DWI
Since the investigating officer in a Charlotte DWI accident case likely did not see the accident occur, nor the driver of the vehicle, one of the first things the officer will attempt to do is get you to admit that you were the driver of the vehicle involved in the accident. While it is always wise to refrain from making such an admission – or any incriminating admission for that matter – your admission to driving, standing alone, is not enough evidence for the State to convict you of DWI. The law on this is clear. It states, “an extrajudicial confession, standing alone, is not sufficient to sustain a conviction of a crime.” This means that if your out of court admission to driving is the only evidence the State uses to prove that you were the driver of the vehicle in question, that alone is not sufficient to sustain a conviction for DWI. This rule primarily exists to help ensure that you are not convicted of DWI, or any other crime, that you didn’t commit or was committed by someone else. Let's now look at how the State may overcome this rule.
Corroborating Your Admission to Driving in a Charlotte DWI
As mentioned above, your admission to driving, standing alone, is not enough evidence for the State to convict you of DWI in Charlotte. However, your admission to driving, in combination with other substantial independent evidence that sufficiently corroborates your admission, may be enough to convict you of DWI. This means that if the State uses other independent evidence that officers gather during their DWI investigation, and this independent evidence confirms that your admission to driving is a trustworthy admission, then your admission in combination with the other independent evidence may be sufficient to convict you of DWI.
This independent evidence that the State will attempt to use to corroborate your admission to driving in a DWI accident case may come in a variety of forms, including testimony from:
- EMS Workers
- Insurance Agents
- Civilian Witnesses
- Your proximity to the car
- The location of your car keys (i.e.. in your pocket)
- To whom the car is registered
- Injuries to you consistent with being in a car accident, such as bruising from an airbag, steering wheel, or seatbelt
- Mud or dirt near the car and on you
- Your personal items in the car
- Your description of the crash
- Blood on you and in the driver’ seat
- Fluids leaking from the vehicle and on you
While this is not an exhaustive list, this list demonstrates that potential evidence may exist in your DWI accident case that could help the State prove that you were the driver of the vehicle that was involved in a car accident that the investigating officer did not observe, with or without your admission to driving.
Have You Been Arrested for a DWI in Charlotte, NC?
If you are facing DWI charges, you need to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Charlotte office directly at 980.207.3355 to schedule your free consultation.