The State has to prove that the defendant actually drove the vehicle. This is more straightforward in a traffic stop or checkpoint. But what about when a collision happens and the defendant has left the vehicle before law enforcement arrives?
Circumstantial evidence may be used to show that the defendant had driven the vehicle.
“In the case before us, the state relied on the following circumstances to prove its case. Townsend was at the scene where his car had been involved in a wreck. He smelled like alcohol, failed field sobriety tests, and appeared to be intoxicated. A breathalyzer test showed his blood alcohol level to be .21. This is enough evidence, albeit circumstantial evidence, to submit the case to the jury. Brown v. State, 307 S.C. 465 (1992) (a case should be submitted to the jury if there is any substantial evidence, either direct or circumstantial, which tends to prove the guilt of the accused or from which his guilt may be fairly and logically deduced); State v. White, 311 S.C. 289 (Ct.App.1993) (precise questions of whether defendant drove motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs were properly left to the jury as factfinders).” State v. Townsend, 321 S.C. 55, 58 (Ct. App. 1996)
“Uncontradicted evidence was presented that the respondent was found alone on the passenger side of a wrecked automobile, which had gone down an embankment on the right hand side of the highway. The operator of a tow truck arrived at the scene about fifteen (15) minutes after the accident occurred. He testified that the respondent smelled of alcohol and appeared to be under the influence. There was also testimony that respondent was ‘rambling’ in his conversation, when interviewed at the hospital a short time later, ‘just talking out of his head;’ but admitted that he was driving his automobile at the time of the accident. An open bottle of an alcoholic beverage was found in the automobile.
The foregoing evidence amply supports the submission of the case to the jury.” State v. Gilliam, 270 S.C. 345, 347, 242 S.E.2d 410, 411 (1978)