A California jury acquitted a 25-year-old woman of misdemeanor DUI on Jan. 29 after a public defender claimed that she was only driving drunk to escape from her violent boyfriend. The Butte County woman was facing a custodial sentence of up to a year if she had been convicted.
The events leading up to her trial unfolded on Sept. 8, 2013, when she visited the Bay Area to celebrate her boyfriend’s birthday. The night took a turn for the worse when the woman’s boyfriend became embroiled in a confrontation with a bouncer at a Market Street club. The couple was ejected from the club after the boyfriend allegedly acted belligerently and spat on the floor. The public defender told the jury that the boyfriend then turned his anger on the woman after accusing her of siding with the bouncers.
The altercation then continued at the couple’s hotel. The boyfriend became physically abusive, and the woman suffered a black eye and a laceration on her head. The boyfriend then allegedly pursued the woman to her car threatening to kill her. The woman then drove away and was subsequently stopped by police after driving against the flow of traffic on Bryant Street. Officers noted the woman’s injuries and suspected that she had been the victim of domestic violence. However, the woman told the officers her injuries were sustained when she struck her head against a wall. She was taken into custody after being treated by paramedics. An expert on domestic abuse told the court that her denial was a sign of battered woman syndrome, which was the result of prolonged mistreatment.
This case shows that there are instances where a drunk driving offender can be treated sympathetically by the criminal justice system, but these situations are rare. Motorists accused of DUI can usually expect severe penalties to be assessed, and mounting an aggressive defense may be a prudent step. A drunk driving defense attorney could attempt to have charges reduced or dismissed by pointing out mitigating factors to prosecutors. They may also question the validity of evidence such a toxicology test results and police statements.