North Carolina Throws Out DUI Case Over Prosecutorial Delay

North Carolina Court of Appeals rules a driver cannot go three years charged with DUI without a trial. The North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled last week that a motorist charged with serious driving crimes cannot go for more than three years without a trial. It was on June 26, 2010 that Winston-Salem Police Officer Richard Necessary arrested Steven Glenn Bryan on Jonestown Road for driving without a license while under the influence of alcohol (DUI). His car was impounded. Bryan was prepared to go to trial on his case, but prosecutors consistently delayed. Eight continuances were granted over Bryan’s request for a speedy trial. Finally, district court Judge Chester Davis judge became fed up on August 31, 2011 and signaled his intention to dismiss the case. The state appealed, kicking off a series of judicial findings that further slowed the process. In October 2011, the superior court took the appeal and asked the district court to make additional findings. By February 2012 the findings were made, recommending the case be dismissed because Bryan’s constitutional right to a speedy trial was violated. In June 2012, the superior court agreed and told the district court to dismiss the charges. In July, the state appealed that dismissal. Last month, the Court of Appeals said enough was enough. Under North Carolina law, the state can only make such an appeal if the district attorney certifies to the ruling judge that “the appeal is not taken for the purpose of delay.” No such certificate was filed in the case until long after the appeal was made. The three-judge panel rejected the state’s argument...

North Carolina: Cops May Not Grab Driver Looking For Safe Place To Stop

Federal judge rules looking for a safe place to pull over at midnight does not justify police pulling a passenger out of a vehicle. Motorists are frequently told they are allowed to find a safe, well-lit location to pull over when an officer behind activates his lights. Following this advice can often lead to trouble, as even a delay in pulling over of thirty seconds or less can enrage officers. Kenneth Burch and Rainey Hope Crosby found out as they were ripped out of their car at midnight by Fayetteville Police officers because they took a few extra seconds to stop after committing the crime of having a burned out license plate light. On February 4, 2011, Burch was driving his gold Dodge Stratus on Langdon Street near Fayetteville State University when Officer Phil Burlingame flipped on his lights. Burch drove slowly for about a quarter-mile, turning right onto Edgecombe Avenue before coming to a stop. Officer Carl Michael arrived in a second patrol car. Both patrolmen noted Crosby and Burch did not seem to want to talk to the officers. Burch explained he did not pull over right away because he was looking for a safe spot to stop. “Officer Burlingame and I approached the vehicle where both occupants were acting suspicious by staring straight ahead, avoiding eye contact, and not answering any questions,” Officer Michael wrote in his arrest report. “I pulled the passenger out to be frisked.” Officer Michael ripped Crosby out of the Dodge and began frisking him. Crosby ran, but he eventually was caught with a .380 caliber Bersa Thunder pistol. He was charged...

Georgia Court Invalidates Search Over A Misplaced License Decal

The full Georgia Court of Appeals rejects the search of a vehicle over a license plate decal on the wrong side of the plate. The Georgia Court of Appeals divided 3 to 2 last month on the question of whether police were wrong to search a motorist merely because he appeared nervous and had his license plate decal on the wrong corner of the plate. On July 24, 2009, a patrolman stopped James Heard hoping to issue a ticket for a tag violation when he did not see a 2009 registration sticker. The officer had also been on the lookout for the type of Chevy S-10 truck Heard was driving. Stopped on the side of the road, Heard explained his registration was up to date and handed over proof, along with his license and insurance card. In the course of the stop, two other officers arrived and surrounded the pickup truck. The patrolman noted that Heard appeared nervous, then checked and confirmed that there was a license decal on the left side of the license plate instead of the right side. At this point, the officer testified in court that his investigation of the traffic violation had ended, but the officer decided to ask consent to search the pickup truck. Heard said no. Heard then understood the officer to order him out of the vehicle, and he was frisked for weapons. He was asked about a search once again, and after he consented the officers found six pieces of crack cocaine. Heard moved to throw out the evidence obtained by the search on the grounds that the officer was...

Ohio Court: Polite Drivers Are Not Suspicious

Ohio Court of Appeals throws out conviction of a man who was searched during a traffic stop because he was too polite. The second highest in Ohio decided on Wednesday that police have no business searching a motorist during a routine traffic stop for being too polite. The Court of Appeals suppressed the evidence that allowed police to seize a .40 caliber Sig Sauer and a small bag of marijuana from Joshua A. Fontaine at 2:27 am on December 12, 2012. On that day, Ohio State Highway patrolman Jared Haslar was running a speed trap on Pearl Road in Strongsville, where the speed limit is 35 MPH. Patrolman Haslar claims his radar gun clocked Fontaine at 45 MPH, so he pulled him over. In the course of the stop, Fontaine cheerfully handed over his license, proof of insurance, and registration. This caused the officer to suspect criminal activity. “While speaking to Mr. Fontaine I felt that his body language and his behavior was a little bit unusual,” Patrolman Haslar testified. “He was extremely — like almost overly polite, and he was breathing heavily at times while I was talking to him.” Patrolman Derek Feierabend was called in to bring a drug dog to sniff Fontaine’s car while Patrolman Haslar wrote out a warning for speeding. Fontaine was ordered out of his car and searched for weapons. “It’s an officer’s safety issue for the canine handler as he’s walking the dog around because his attention is focused on running the dog around the vehicle, conducting a sniff, and it’s difficult to be watching a person inside the vehicle and do...

California Supreme Court Outlaws Science In DUI Cases

Scientific evidence challenging the accuracy of breathalyzers is not admissible, California Supreme Court rules. Scientific evidence cannot be brought into evidence to challenge a borderline conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) in California. The state Supreme Court last week rejected Terry Vangelder’s attempt to clear his name after he was arrested for drunk driving though he showed few signs of impairment in field sobriety tests. California Highway Patrol Sergeant Richard W. Berg noticed Vangelder’s pickup truck driving at an alleged 125 MPH on Highway 163 in San Diego County on December 22, 2007. As soon as Sergeant Berg flipped on his overhead lights, Vangelder pulled over. Vangelder admitted to having a few glasses of wine with dinner, so he took and passed the field sobriety tests. Vangelder agreed to take a handheld Intoximeter Alco-Sensor IV preliminary alcohol screener test, which displayed a 0.086 blood alcohol content (BAC) reading. After this, he was arrested and taken to the county jail where an Intoximeter EC/IR breatalyzer produced an 0.08 BAC reading, right at the legal limit. He then took a blood test that reported a 0.087 BAC. “I said I wanted to submit to a blood test,” Vangelder testified. “I didn’t think it was accurate. And the reason I say that is because I knew how much I had to drink.” At trial, Vangelder called Dr. Michael P. Hlastala, a professor of medicine at the University of Washington, to testify. Hlastala is the author of a textbook and 170 peer-reviewed articles on the physiology of alcohol. He testified that the breath machines do not produce a scientifically reliable...