While not what many think of when picturing an arrest for OUI, it is possible to be arrested at your home.
When people think of getting an OUI, they often think of getting pulled over after a night out. But what if you have already made it home and now a police officer is knocking on your door. accusing you of driving under the influence? Can the police officer still arrest you? The short answer is yes: You can still be arrested because the standard to arrest is very low. The police officer only needs to show that there is probable cause to prove that you operated under the influence. However, in order to be convicted of operating under the influence, there must be enough evidence to prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt, and in an instance where you were arrested at home, it will likely be very difficult for a prosecutor to meet this high burden.
To prove a DUI charge, the prosecutor must prove three elements: 1). Operation of a motor vehicle 2). While on a public way 3). While under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs. For the police to arrest you, they must have probable cause to believe that all these elements are satisfied. Can there be probable cause for a DUI arrest when I am in my home? The short answer is yes, but only under certain conditions. Commonwealth v. Mendoza, 87 Mass. App. Ct. 1106 (2015).
Probable cause is a belief, supported by factual observations, that the individual being arrested committed a crime. Commonwealth v. Jewett, 471 Mass. 624 (2015). Probable cause for arrest can be created by either direct or circumstantial evidence. Direct evidence is evidence that directly demonstrates the fact you need to prove, such as eyewitness testimony. It does not require you to make any inferences to reach your conclusion. Circumstantial evidence requires you to draw an inference from the facts presented to reach a conclusion. Commonwealth v. Proia, 92 Mass. App. Ct. 824 (2018).
The police could have direct evidence of the elements of DUI even if you are at your home. If, for example, the police pull you over and you pull into your driveway, they have direct evidence that you were both operating a motor vehicle and driving on a public way.
But imagine, you have parked your car, turned off the engine, and walked into your house. Can you still be arrested for a DUI? Yes, you can, but the evidence used against you is likely to be circumstantial. For example, the police may allege that your car’s engine is still warm to prove circumstantially that you were recently operating the vehicle. Commonwealth v. Petersen, 67 Mass. App. Ct. 49 (2006). If the prosecution calls a witness who can attest to your car being parked in one location, and the record shows that you are arrested a short time later in another location, and this location can only be accessed by driving on a public way, there is enough to prove that you were on a public way. Commonwealth v. Mendoza; Commonwealth v. Jackson, 89 Mass. App. Ct. 1120 (2016). Finally, smelling strongly of alcohol, having difficulty walking, or standing, or otherwise acting intoxicated, is circumstantial evidence that you are under the influence of alcohol. Commonwealth v. Mendoza; Commonwealth v. Jewett, 471 Mass. 624 (2015). Therefore, even if you are in your own home, you can be arrested for a DUI.
However, it is possible for this charge to be fought, and won, in court. It will likely be very difficult for a prosecutor to prove that you were operating under the influence beyond a reasonable doubt. Oftentimes, there is a lack of evidence to support one of the elements of the charge, or the circumstantial evidence that is available is too thin. The most common problem for the prosecution arises with its ability to prove that you were impaired at the time you were driving. If you are inside your home, with little evidence to prove that you had driven recently, it may be very difficult to prove this crucial element. Without direct evidence of you driving, it may also be very difficult for the prosecutor to prove that you in fact were the operator of the vehicle.
If you were arrested for a DUI at home, it is critical that you have a knowledgeable and experienced attorney review your case for all possible challenges and routes to the dismissal of the charge. Contact The Law Offices of Joseph D. Bernard for a free consultation immediately.