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Elements of a Crime

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Definition - What does Elements of a Crime mean?

Elements of a crime include all the parts of the crime which the state or the prosecution must prove to find the defendant guilty. For criminal cases the elements of a crime must be proven "beyond a shadow of doubt", which contrasts with civil cases which may be won through a "preponderance of evidence". Elements of driving under the influence or DUI can include the following:

  • The driver or defendant was either in control of the motorized vehicle or operating it on the road; and
  • The driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

States also may find a driver guilty of DUI if they are operating a motorized vehicle on the roadway and their blood alcohol concentration was 0.08% or higher. This is called a per se offense and the defendant may be found guilty even if they are not mentally or physically impaired.

Some state laws state the defendant must have been "operating a motorized vehicle". Other states may require the driver to be driving or in physical control of the car. These terms may sound synonymous, but they may vary by state. Talk to a DWI lawyer who understands the laws of your state to determine what the state considers "driving".

Proving a driver is under the influence can be done in a number of ways such as testimony about the defendant's driving, statements made by the defendant, the defendant's physical and mental state and appearance (disheveled clothes, unshaven, uncombed hair, flushed skin, smelly breath, slurred speech), the results of the defendant's field sobriety test, and any other evidence from the scene of the crime such as film or photographs.

Blood alcohol concentration tests can prove the driver's BAC is above the legal limit. The most common type of BAC test is the breathalyzer test, but BAC tests can also include testing the defendant's blood and urine. Some breathalyzer tests which are done at the scene may not be admissible in court but may allow the officer to establish probable cause for a field sobriety test. Blood alcohol test are not infallible, and a skilled DWI defense lawyer may be able to review the testing methods to prove the test was administered incorrectly.

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