Tuesday, June 12, 2007

S.C. Supreme Court makes it easier for alcohol evidence to be admitted at trial

In Lee v. Bunch, an automobile accident case, the Court of Appeals found that the probative value of Lee’s alcohol consumption prior to the accent was at best, slight. The court focused on the fact that Lee’s blood alcohol level was under the legal limit pursuant to the driving under the influence (DUI) statute.

The State Supreme Court reversed. The Court noted that although Lee’s blood alcohol level did not implicate a criminal DUI offense, testimony of Bunch’s experts constituted probative evidence of Lee’s impairment that arguably contributed to the accident. Bunch’s experts, relying on the blood alcohol level of 0.036% taken several hours after the accident occurred, estimated that Lee’s blood alcohol level at the time of the collision was closer to 0.066% or 0.096%. At that level, according to Bunch’s experts, Lee’s alcohol consumption would have negatively affected Lee’s judgment and his ability to multi-task, thus impairing his motorcycle driving skills. The Court also took into account evidence from other witnesses that Lee was speeding and that the impact occurred across the center line. Thus, the alcohol consumption prior to the accident was not inadmissible under Rule 403.

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