The recent case of King v. State, decided on October 17, 2016, provides wan example of why you should never volunteer information to the police about prior DUIs while under investigation for another DUI.
King was encountered by Henry County police, standing outside of his Jeep, which was pulled off the road with flashers on and hood up. The officer noticed King was a little unsteady, his speech was slurred and he smelled strongly of alcohol. The officer also located an unopened 24 oz. can of beer in King’s car.
Because of health issues no standard field tests were administered, but King was asked to say his ABCs, which he was unable to do. Because of King’s physical appearance, the officer placed King under arrest.
The officer then read King the Implied Consent warning, during which King stated that he was familiar with the implied consent warning because he had a prior DUI. King consented to a breath test, but after the officer placed him in the back of the police car, he began to complain of back pain and indicated that he wanted an ambulance. The officer called for medical assistance and King was transported to the hospital by ambulance. Accordingly, the breath test was not performed, but King later consented to a blood test, which showed a blood alcohol level of .307.
At trial, the State introduced evidence of King’s statement, and the Defense objected on grounds that the statement would introduce character evidence, which generally is inadmissible unless the Defendant presents evidence of good character first. The trial court allowed King’s statement about having a prior DUI into evidence and the Court of Appeals affirmed:
“As found by the trial court, the prior DUI was relevant to King’s intent to drive while intoxicated, his defense at trial that the State had failed to prove that he had driven while intoxicated (as opposed to becoming intoxicated after stopping the vehicle by the side of the road), and “peculiarities about the investigation,” including why King suddenly developed back pain moments after consenting to a breath test.
We agree. A material issue in the State’s prosecution was intent and “because the same state of mind required for committing the prior act and the charged crimes, i.e., the general intent to drive while under the influence of alcohol,” evidence of King’s prior DUI was relevant to show King’s intent on this occasion.
Likewise, the relevance of the prior DUI was heightened because King’s defense was that he did not drive the vehicle while intoxicated, “making evidence that he had voluntarily driven under the influence of alcohol on a prior occasion all the more relevant because it tended to show that it was more likely that he intentionally did so on this occasion.”
So the lesson to be learned, besides not driving while intoxicated, is that you should never voluntarily provide information which the police can use against you at trial.