People v. Lachman

Citation100 Cal.Rptr. 710,23 Cal.App.3d 1094
Decision Date13 March 1972
Docket NumberCr. 19966
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
PartiesThe PEOPLE of the State of California, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Robert F. LACHMAN, Defendant and Appellant.

Harry E. Weiss, Hollywood, for appellant.

Evelle J. Younger, Atty. Gen., William E. James, Asst. Atty. Gen., Gaye W. Herrington, Deputy Atty. Gen., for respondent.

FLEMING, Associate Justice.

Robert Lechman appeals a judgment of conviction for felony drunk driving. (Veh.Code, § 23101.)

Shortly after midnight on 25 December 1969 Lachman was drag racing in a 1969 Road Runner at 75 to 95 miles per hour on Sunset Boulevard in Pacific Palisades. Ahead of him Christopher Marvin was driving a van on Sunset at 25 to 35 miles per hour. As Marvin started to change lanes Lachman's car collided with his van, as a consequence of which Laura Harvey, a passenger in the van, suffered severe injuries.

According to Los Angeles Police Officer Mahoe, Lachman had 'strong alcohol' on his breath, his speech was slurred, and his eyes were watery. Lachman told Mahoe he was the other party to the accident, and a witness at the scene said Lachman's car had collided with the van. Mahoe concluded Lachman was under the influence of liquor, arrested him for drunk driving, and secured a sample of his urine. The police chemist who analyzed the sample found a blood alcohol level of .14 per cent and concluded that, depending on objective symptoms, Lachman had probably been under the influence of intoxicating liquor.

Vehicle Code section 23126 provides in pertinent part:

'(a) Under the trial of any criminal action . . . the amount of alcohol in the person's blood at the time of the test as shown by chemical analysis of his blood, breath, or urine shall give rise to the following presumptions affecting the burden of proof:

'(3) If there was at that time o.10 per cent or more by weight of alcohol in the person's blood, it shall be presumed that the person was under the influence of intoxicating liquor at the time of the alleged offense.'

Lachman's principal contention is that the use of this presumption violated 'the fundamental and basic rule that defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonably doubt.'

We find this contention unpersuasive. First, the record does not indicate that the trial court relied on the presumption in convicting Lachman or that the result would have been materially affected had the presumption not been used. (See People v. Fitzgerald, 14 Cal.App.2d 180, 191--197, 58 P.2d 718.) There was ample direct evidence to prove that Lachman was under the influence of intoxicating liquor: the chemist testified that Lachman's blood alcohol level indicated he was probably under the influence of intoxicating liquor, depending on objective symptoms; the officer testified that Lachman's speech was slurred, his eyes were watery, and there was 'strong alcohol' on his breath; and the proof showed that Lachman was driving 75 to 95 miles per hour on a city street. (People v. Johnson, 230 Cal.App.2d 80, 82--83, 40 Cal.Rptr. 711.)

Second, no objection to the use of the presumption, if it was used, was made at the trial.

Third, the presumption is neither unfair nor unconstitutional. A statutory presumption affecting the burden of proof in a criminal cause does not alter the People's duty to prove defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. It merely allows proof of an ultimate fact by permitting that fact to be presumed from proof of a preliminary fact. Whether the ultimate fact is proved by direct evidence or by a presumption which arises from proof of a preliminary fact, the defendant's burden of rebuttal remains the same: he need only raise a reasonable doubt as to the sufficiency of the proof of the ultimate fact. (Evid.Code, § 607; DeWoody v. Superior Court, 8 Cal.App.3d 52, 56--57, 87 Cal.Rptr. 210.)

The use of a statutory presumption in a criminal cause may infringe upon due process of law 'unless it can at least be said with substantial assurance that the presumed fact...

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15 cases
  • Burg v. Municipal Court
    • United States
    • California Supreme Court
    • December 22, 1983
    ...blood-alcohol level, a defendant could escape conviction merely by raising a doubt as to his intoxication. (People v. Lachman (1972) 23 Cal.App.3d 1094, 1097, 100 Cal.Rptr. 710; People v. Schrieber (1975) 45 Cal.App.3d 917, 923, 119 Cal.Rptr. 812; Cameron, The Impact of Drinking-Driving Cou......
  • People v. Lujan, s. 1064
    • United States
    • California Superior Court
    • February 18, 1983
    ...23155, (i.e. Veh.Code, § 23126) survived a constitutional attack on the same ground of vagueness in the case of People v. Lachman (1972) 23 Cal.App.3d 1094, 100 Cal.Rptr. 710. In Lachman, the reviewing court specifically held that the presumption contained in former Vehicle Code section 231......
  • People v. McNeal
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • September 21, 2007 section 23610 is a certain percent of alcohol by weight in the person's blood as defined in that section. In People v. Lachman (1972) 23 Cal.App.3d 1094, 100 Cal. Rptr. 710, the court considered whether the presumption, set forth in a statute, that a person is under the influence when th......
  • Lovell v. State
    • United States
    • Arkansas Supreme Court
    • October 22, 1984
    ...Cal.App.3d 614, 617, 196 Cal.Rptr. 161; People v. Schrieber (1975) 45 Cal.App.3d 917, 924, 119 Cal.Rptr. 812; People v. Lachman (1972) 23 Cal.App.3d 1094, 1098, 100 Cal.Rptr. 710; People v. Perkins (1981) 126 Cal.App.3d Supp. 12, 21, 179 Cal.Rptr. 431; Greaves v. State, supra, 528 P.2d 805,......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 books & journal articles
  • Table of Cases null
    • United States
    • Full Court Press California Guide to Criminal Evidence Table of Cases
    • Invalid date
    ...Ch. 6, §3.9.1(1) People v. Kroncke, 70 Cal. App. 4th 1535, 83 Cal. Rptr. 2d 493 (1st Dist. 1999)—Ch. 4-C, §3.3 People v. Lachman, 23 Cal. App. 3d 1094, 100 Cal. Rptr. 710 (2d Dist. 1972)—Ch. 8, §2.4.1 People v. Laiwa, 34 Cal. 3d 711, 195 Cal. Rptr. 503, 669 P.2d 1278 (1983)—Ch. 5-A, §3.3.4(......
  • Chapter 8 - §2. Presumptions
    • United States
    • Full Court Press California Guide to Criminal Evidence Chapter 8 Burdens & Presumptions
    • Invalid date
    ...v. Goldsmith (2014) 59 Cal.4th 258, 269-70; People v. Roder (1983) 33 Cal.3d 491, 498-99; see, e.g., People v. Lachman (2d Dist.1972) 23 Cal.App.3d 1094, 1098 (presumption that person with blood alcohol content above 0.10% is under influence of alcohol did not violate due process; rational ......

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