Appellate Decision goes to State in DWI conviction case

Here is a win for the State/Law Enforcement against a DWI defendant.  The defendant admitted to law enforcement officers that he was intoxicated when he was arrested and that he was driving his truck at the time of the accident.  The police had pulled up to the scene of the accident.  When they got there, they observed that the defendant was intoxicated.

The officer smelled a “faint” odor of alcohol on his breath, and noticed that his eyes were bloodshot. Based on those observations, the officer believed

Defendant was intoxicated. Defendant declined medical treatment at the scene.

Defendant told the officer that he was traveling northbound on North

Eastern Avenue when the passenger side wheels of his truck went off the side of the

road. He said that he overcorrected and crossed over the center line, went off the

opposite side of the road, and then caught an embankment, which caused the truck

to flip. The truck rolled several times before it came to rest on its roof next to the


A second officer came to the scene and began a DWI investigation.  Officer detected a “strong odor” of alcohol coming from Defendant. He also observed

Rastorfer’s eyes to be “watery and glassy,” and his balance “swaying and uncertain.”

Defendant stated that he had last consumed an alcoholic beverage 30

minutes earlier.

Officer performed two field sobriety tests: a horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, and the walk-and-turn test. He detected three out of six possible clues of intoxication on the HGN test. Officer testified that the presence of four clues on the HGN test generally indicates intoxication; but he explained that he was unable to complete the HGN test, and did not score Defendant’s right eye, because Defendant “wouldn’t follow my proper instructions” by visually following the stimulus. Officer then detected four out of eight possible clues of impairment on the walk-and-turn test, and testified that two clues indicated intoxication. When Officer attempted to perform the one-leg stand test,

Defendant refused to comply. Following his investigation, Defendant was arrested

for driving while intoxicated.

To sustain a conviction for driving while intoxicated, the State must establish a

temporal connection between the defendant’s last operation of a motor vehicle and

his observed intoxication. The Defendant’s argument was that the State’s evidence was insufficient to establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that he was intoxicated while driving.

In this case, the Appellate Court looked at the following facts to affirm the trial court’s conviction for DWI:

That Defendant claimed he last consumed alcohol at 10:00 p.m. and that he said he had been in Grain Valley, more than thirty miles away, in the three hours preceding the

accident, it was a reasonable inference that Defendant had finished drinking well

before the accident occurred. The evidence also indicated that the accident had

occurred only shortly before officers encountered Defendant which supported the

inference that his observed intoxication preceded the accident. The nature of the

accident – a single vehicle rollover without obvious explanation in clear weather, on

a straight, dry and paved road – also supports the inference that the cause of the

accident was intoxication-related. Defendant’s refusal to submit to blood alcohol

testing also supports an inference of his intoxication while driving. The fact that

the State’s evidence did not wholly foreclose the possibility that Defendant became

intoxicated following the accident does not require reversal of the trial court.

The case was State v. Rastorfer, Court of Appeals, Western District of Missouri.

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