Last month, the California Supreme Court made an important ruling on DUI law that could affect the way prosecutors, law enforcement, and the accused approach establishing and fighting DUI charges. In the 2011 Orange County DUI case of Ashley Coffey, the court ruled that the arresting officer's actions were valid even without establishing an illegal blood alcohol concentration—but that Coffey should have had the opportunity to challenge her arrest at her DMV hearing.
According to NBC 4, in 2011, Coffey was stopped on the Costa Mesa Freeway after an officer spotted her swerving on the road. The officer noted her red eyes and the strong odor of alcohol and administered a field sobriety test. Coffey failed the test, but, when given a breathalyzer test, registered a .08 BAC— which is above the legal BAC limit in California. Coffey was still arrested for DUI and later registered a .09 BAC test while in custody.
She and her counsel would go on to argue that because her BAC level was still legal at the time of her arrest, her charge should be dismissed. They even provided a DUI expert to her administrative DMV hearing to support Coffey's claims, but the DMV refused to hear the testimony and issued a license suspension.
Now, four years later, the state Supreme Court has partially sided with Coffey. While they upheld the officer's judgement to make an arrest based on the circumstantial evidence at the time of the DUI stop, they also ruled that Coffey should have been able to challenge the validity of that stop at her administrative DMV hearing. As NBC 4 reports, in its decision, the court suggested that lawmakers review current law to ensure that what is and what is not allowed in DMV hearings is more clearly defined.
Lasting Ramifications of the Decision
While it still too soon to see any current effects of the state Supreme Court decision, NBC 4 did speak with Coffey's defense counsel to talk about what the ruling could mean for future DUI cases in California. While he was pleased that the decision could provide more agency for the accused to fight their charge in an administrative hearing, the decision is also weighted in favor of circumstantial evidence during a DUI stop—a ruling that he believes could not only lead to more DUI arrests, but weaker cases for the state's prosecutors.
If you have been arrested for a DUI, then it is critical to act quickly. At The Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, our experienced and award-winning San Diego criminal defense lawyers have navigated countless DUI cases on behalf our clients. From preparing and accompanying you for your DMV hearing to mounting a thorough defense in court, our representatives ensure that the best possible outcome of your charge is always placed within reach.
Do not hesitate to get started. Contact us today for a free consultation.