Can the DMV penalize someone for a DUI in Los Angeles based upon a police officer’s observation of their behavior? Can you lose your license even if your blood alcohol content is borderline for a DUI charge?
A ruling earlier this year by the California State Supreme Court in the case of Ashley Coffey vs. Shiomoto permits the use of circumstantial evidence to support the finding of DUI when the DMV is ruling on a license suspension.
The case involved Ashley Jourdan Coffey’s appeal of her loss of license after a DUI conviction. Police officers stopped her after observing her weaving in and out of traffic lanes around 1:30 a.m. in the morning of November 13, 2011. Coffey claimed that she had been in a bar celebrating her birthday—but not drinking. The officers who spoke with her observed several behaviors that suggested otherwise. Her breath smelled like alcohol, her eyes were red and watery and she failed several roadside sobriety tests.
Police gave Coffey a breathalyzer test about an hour after pulling her over. It measured .08—just at the legal limit. A test three minutes later showed a BAC of 0.09.