Under the Influence of Alcohol or any Drug - Definition

Posted Tuesday, January 17, 2017 by Ed Harper

Under the Influence of Alcohol or any Drug – Definition

WPI 16.04 states the following: “A person is under the influence of alcohol or any drug if, as a result of using alcohol or any drug, the person’s ability to act as a reasonably careful person under the same or similar circumstances is lessened in any appreciable degree.” (WPI 16.04)

This instruction is to be used with WPI 16.03 and is not to be used when a person is driving a motor vehicle at the time of injury or death. In that case WPI 16.04.01, under the influence of alcohol or any drug – driving a motor vehicle, is to be used.

This jury instruction is based on RCW 5.40.060(1). This statute provides the standard for determining whether the person injured or killed was under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug and is the same standard set forth in the statute on driving while under the influence.

Pursuant to RCW capital 46.61.502, a person is guilty of driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug if the person drives a motor vehicle within the state while the person is either under the influence of or affected by the liquor and or drug. These definitions have been adapted for use in the case of a person injured and/or killed while engaged in an activity other than driving. The term “appreciable” means according to Black’s law dictionary “Capable of being perceived or recognized by the senses.”

The case of State v. Lewellyn, 78 Wn.App. 788, 890 P2d 418, points out what items may be utilized to assist in determining one’s ability to act, and whether it is lessened in any appreciable degree. Here, the court heard evidence from a WSP trooper who while giving certain tests, noticed Mr. Lewellyn smelled of alcohol, had been driving erratically, could not keep his balance, stopped while walking in order to steady himself, and could not touch his heel to his toe. This indicates an inability to act as a reasonably careful person under the same or similar circumstances who has been affected to a reasonable degree.

While this instruction WPI 16.04 does not pertain to automobile cases the same standards will apply in determining whether the person was acting as a reasonable person would have acted under the same or similar circumstances. So, first the judge must hear enough evidence to allow the instruction to be given; then, once the instruction is given, while deliberating, the jury is instructed to verify and examine the facts as presented and then make a factual determination of the effects of the intoxicants.

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