State v. Miller

The Facts

Defendant was arrested for DUI with a blood alcohol content of .12.  Defendant argued he was not aware that he had digested alcoholic beverage.  He argued he had slept all day and was sick.  Defendant said because he was sick, his taste was totally impaired.  Defendant’s friend allegedly made him a coffee that had a mint flavor, which he consumed, but claims was unaware of the alcohol within.

Procedural History

Convicted at trial level.  Appellate court affirms.


In DUI crimes, mental state is not applicable element.

The Issue

Whether a defendant can be convicted of violating a DUI statute without proof of a culpable mental state regarding the element of drunkenness.

The Holding

Judgment affirmed.

Court’s Reasoning

The prosecution need only prove that the defendant’s status at the time of arrest was drunkenness beyond the .08 level and that he was driving his vehicle.  The purpose of the DUI statute is to keep intoxicated drivers off the road.  If mental state were an appreciable element of the crime, drunk drivers could often claim it was their intent to stay below the .08 limit, yet they were unaware of such violation.  Drunk drivers often insist that their alcohol consumption was not intended to impact their driving also.


The legislature, when crafting the statute, did not intend to prevent juries from considering the fact that defendant may have been tricked into consuming the beverage in the instant case.  The jury is very well capable of determining the element of volition on the part of the defendant; and it is abundantly clear that the legislature would not have prevented the jury from rendering such a determination.  “Keeping drunken drivers off the road will not be achieved by convicting people who believed they drank coffee only.”

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