DUI Enforcers!

State Supreme Court clarifies Pretext stops

Thursday, December 20, 2012 10:17 AM | Anonymous

The state supreme court today reinstated the Felony DUI conviction of a Grant County driver.  The Court of Appeals had reversed Mr. Arreola's conviction concluding it was a pretext stop, which violated the driver's constitutional rights.  While the officer had suspicions the driver was intoxicated because of an earlier DUI complaint, the officer stopped the car for a muffler violation.   In this "mixed motive" circumstance, where officers have both lawful and unlawful basis for a stop, the State Supreme Court concluded that officers are allowed to exercise their discretion to make the stop.

The ruling was critical to the success of the Target Zero Teams concept funded by the legislature and the centerpiece for DUI enforcement in urban areas.  If the earlier court of appeals decision on Arreola had survived, many DUI investigations would likely have been reversed because DUI teams are trained to look for infractions that indirectly suggest DUI driving.   Under the court of appeals reasoning, stopping a driver for having their headlights out, when the DUI emphasis officer was highly motivated by DUI investigations, would likely have doomed the arrest.   

The new Arreola opinion makes clear that officers who regularly enforce the traffic code can continue to do so without fear that DUI suspicions will overshadow the stop.   

The majority opinion is here.    The two member dissent is here. 

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