Submitted: March 8, 2017
Dominic A. Carrera, Jr., Esquire, Deputy Attorney General
Edmund Daniel Lyons, Esquire
ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT OF
R. Wallace, Judge.
27th day of April, 2017, having considered Defendant Francis
E. Byrne's Motion for Judgment of Acquittal (D.I. 24);
the State's Response thereto (D.I. 27); Defendant
Byrne's Reply (D.I. 28); and the record in this matter;
it appears to the Court that:
September 1, 2016, Delaware State Police arrested Defendant
Francis E. Byrne ("Byrne") for multiple charges
stemming from a traffic stop conducted that same evening.
After a one-day trial, on February 23, 2017, a unanimous jury
found Byrne guilty of Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol
("DUI"); Aggressive Driving; Speeding; Failure to
Maintain Lane; Improper Signaling; and Following a Motor
Vehicle Too Closely. Byrne has filed a timely Motion for
Judgment of Acquittal under Superior Court Criminal Rule
29(c) alleging insufficiency of the evidence.
Specifically, Byrne argues that the State failed to prove
beyond a reasonable doubt that he was "impaired by
alcohol." Noting that he was only convicted under an
impairment theory, Byrne contends that the evidence presented
at trial was "not sufficient to support any rational
jury's finding of alcohol causation beyond a reasonable
State counters that the evidence, both direct and
circumstantial, when viewed in the light most favorable to
its case, was sufficient to allow a reasonable jury to
convict the defendant.
brief recounting of the evidence relevant to this motion
follows. On the evening of September 1, 2016, Corporal Andrew
Pietlock ("Cpl. Pietlock") of the Delaware State
Police was in a fully marked police car patrolling northbound
Route 202 in North Wilmington. He there saw Byrne's black
Nissan pickup truck traveling at a high rate of speed, making
several unsafe lane changes both with and without a turn
signal, cutting off other drivers, and tailgating far too
closely behind others. After observing these traffic
infractions, Cpl. Pietlock was able to use moving radar to
determine that Byrne was traveling at approximately 70 miles
per hour in a posted 45 mile-per-hour zone. Cpl. Pietlock
activated his emergency lights and Byrne pulled over into a
parking lot, though not immediately.
Cpl. Pietlock went to the driver's door of Byrne's
pickup and asked for Byrne's identification and proof of
insurance. As he was speaking to Byrne, the trooper smelled
alcohol coming from the vehicle and took notice of
Byrne's glassy, bloodshot eyes and slurred speech. Cpl.
Pietlock asked Byrne if he had been drinking that evening.
Byrne told him that he thought he had had just two beers
approximately 30 minutes before being pulled over.
this point, Cpl. Pietlock had Byrne exit the pickup to
perform sobriety tests. While alighting from the cab, Cpl.
Pietlock noticed that Byrne had difficulty maintaining his
balance and it appeared that he had urinated in his pants.
Cpl. Pietlock instructed Byrne to complete several standard
field sobriety tests designed to indicate impairment. After
administering four different sobriety tests, Cpl. Pietlock
characterized Byrne's performance as failures for all
tests. He concluded that Byrne was impaired. At this point,
Cpl. Pietlock arrested Byrne and transported him to Troop 1
where Byrne took an Intoxilyzer test.
trial, the State presented evidence of that Intoxilyzer test.
Byrne produced an alcohol concentration of .177 grams per 210
liters of breath - more than twice the legal limit. Based
upon this test result, the failed field sobriety tests, and
his prior observations of Byrne, Cpl. Pietlock cited him for
DUI and other charges.
After all evidence was presented at trial, Byrne made an oral
Motion for Judgment of Acquittal, contending that the State
presented insufficient evidence for the jury to properly
consider the DUI charge. The Court heard arguments from the
parties outside the presence of the jury and subsequently
denied the Motion, finding that there was sufficient evidence
for the jury to properly consider the DUI count. Byrne was
convicted of DUI under 21 Del. C. §
4177(a)(1) and numerous other traffic charges.
criminal defendant must meet a high bar to succeed on a
Motion for Judgment of Acquittal under Superior Court
Criminal Rule 29. The Court may enter a judgment of
acquittal on a specific count only if "the evidence is
insufficient to sustain a conviction of such
offense." When evaluating the motion, the Court
considers the evidence, "together with all legitimate
inferences therefrom . . . from the point of view most
favorable to the State." "[T]he standard of review is
'whether any rational trier of fact, viewing the
evidence in the light most favorable to the State, could find
[the defendant] guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of all the
elements of the crime.'" "For purposes of
reviewing a claim of insufficient evidence there is no
distinction between direct and circumstantial
prove Byrne's guilt as to Driving Under the Influence of
Alcohol, the State had to demonstrate he was: (a) driving a
motor vehicle; (b) when he was under the influence of
One is under the influence for the purposes of §
4177(a)(1), when the "person is, because of alcohol. .
., less able than the person would ordinarily have been,
either mentally or physically, to exercise clear judgement,
sufficient physical control, or due care in the driving of a
vehicle." The State is not required to establish
the driver was "drunk" or
"intoxicated." "Nor is it required that
impaired ability to drive be demonstrated by particular acts
of unsafe driving." Under Delaware law, "[a]
chemical test is not necessary to prove [the]
impairment" required by the statute. The State may
meet its burden by producing circumstantial evidence of
alcohol's influence, and a jury may properly infer that
influence from the defendant's conduct, demeanor, and
statements. And the State may present lay or other
probative testimony to establish the defendant was under the
influence of alcohol as defined by Delaware's
statute. Lastly, ...