The Law Offices of John Phebus

Circumstantial evidence used as basis for charges in DUI case

On Aug. 13, 2013, Mesa police responded to an accident in which a cyclist suffered fatal injuries. At the scene, the officers determined that the individual had been hit by a vehicle. Further investigation led them to suspect that a specific 37-year-old man had driven his vehicle while intoxicated that evening. Police arrested him several days later, and he was eventually indicted on a manslaughter charge early this year.

In order to draw this conclusion, local police compiled a variety of evidence during their investigation. This included damage on the suspect’s SUV, the fact that the vehicle was found at a repair shop, receipts from a liquor establishment and witness accounts.

Evidence can be categorized as either direct or circumstantial evidence, and there is a difference between the two. Direct evidence is evidence that needs no extra assumptions. Testimony from A that he actually saw B shoot C is a basic example of direct evidence.

Circumstantial evidence requires a little inference or assumption. The idea of the “smoking gun” is often confused as direct evidence -- the shot is so fresh that the gun is still smoking. However, to prove that B shot C, an inference must still be drawn. How do we know B was holding the gun and shot C?

Why the little abstract lesson? The evidence in this case would be considered circumstantial evidence. A story needs to be told, and how the dots are connected could lead to drastically different results – and it is the defendant’s freedom that is on the line in felony DUI cases. An Arizona defense attorney ensures that the right story is told and that the wrong assumptions aren’t made.

Source:, “Bar receipts are used to indict suspect in fatal 2013 hit-and-run,” Jim Walsh, Feb. 6, 2014

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