Coiner's Corner

Under The Influence

Posted by Andrew Coiner | Dec 23, 2013 | 0 Comments

The phrase "under the influence" is repeated daily by prosecutors, lawyers and criminal defense lawyers. It's one of the five Driving Under the Influence crimes applicable in Kentucky. Suspected impaired drivers can be charged with driving with a prohibited blood or breath alcohol content (0.8 and above), driving under the influence of illegal or prescribed drugs, driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, under-21 impaired driving and driving under the influence of alcohol.

The driving under the influence of alcohol charge goes back to the days before machines were used to measure breath-alcohol content. It is the original, old-school DUI charge. It is also used today when a suspected impaired driver refuses to submit to breath or blood testing.

Lawyers and Judges use it so often we may become desensitized to it, but jurors aren't. I almost learned this the hard way. Twice, while deliberating, a local jury asked the Judge to define the phrase "under the influence." My client refused all chemical testing so there was no magic number for the jury to consider.

The prosecutor tried to demonstrate my client was under the influence by claiming he weaved while driving and performed poorly on divided attention testing, or as some lawyers call them: "Roadside Gymnastics." I countered by pointing out my client was stopped for speeding, not something law enforcement is taught is a DUI driving clue. He also successfully completed the Roadside Olympics by demonstrating one clue each on the one-leg stand and "I Walk the Line" exercises. I also walked the arresting officer through his DUI Detection training to demonstrate my client exhibited few traits of "under the influence" driving.

Still, despite my efforts and those of the prosecutor, the jury wanted a legal definition of "under the influence." After the first question, the Judge appropriately and tactfully advised the jury it had to decide the case based on the jury instructions. That didn't do it because a few minutes later, the jury asked the same question. This time the Judge brought the jury back into the courtroom and, again, tactfully and appropriately explained the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that juries cannot be supplied with a definition of "under the influence." Our top court thinks the meaning of the phrase is so evident it doesn't require explanation.

Finally, after wrestling with the instructions for a few more minutes, the jury returned the two-word verdict my client wanted to hear: Not Guilty. My client left the courthouse a happy man. I left the courthouse determined to more extensively explore prospective jurors on their definitions of "under the influence."

About the Author

Andrew Coiner

I have been representing people accused of crimes and victims of the negligence of others in Paducah since 1994.  Before opening my Paducah office, I worked in two large Kentucky law firms.  Working for large law firms made me realize I'd rather help a person injured in a car wreck caused by another driver's negligence than work for the negligent driver's insurance company. I served two Kentucky governors in economic development positions.  I am proud to have created jobs for the working men and women of Kentucky.  Before working in economic development, I served a stint as a legislative liaison and a special prosecutor in the Kentucky Attorney General's office. Before my legal career, I worked in a drug store, hardware, as a ditch digger and as a newspaper reporter.  I worked my way through Ashland Community College, Marshall University and the University Of Kentucky College Of Law. I handle criminal and personal injury cases in the western Kentucky counties of McCracken, Ballard, Carlisle, Marshall, Hickman, Graves, Livingston, Crittenden, Fulton, Caldwell and Lyon.  I also represent clients in the United States District Courts, Eastern and Western District of Kentucky, including Paducah, Fort Campbell and Owensboro.  I have also successfully represented clients in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati,Ohio.   I have been honored by my peers with Martindale Hubbell's prestigious AV rating for achieving and maintaining very high ethical conduct and preeminent legal ability. I have also been selected by my peers as a Kentucky Super Lawyer. Kentucky Monthly magazine selected me as one of the top attorneys in Kentucky. The National Trial Lawyers selected me as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer. If you are facing federal or state criminal charges or have been injured because of someone's negligence, call me for an honest evaluation of your case.  If you've got a great case, I'll tell you.  If you got a case with problems, I'll tell you that too.  I will put my reputation, experience and expertise to work for you.  Your case deserves the attention of an experienced trial lawyer.  

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Attorney Andrew Coiner

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