Illegal Search Dismisses DUI, Test Refusal, Driving While Drunk & Revoked
illegal search gets charges dismissed
Summary: Illegal entry by police into garage results in dismissal of drunk driving, refusal to submit to a sobriety test and driving while revoked.
In this case Attorney Fred Slone's client, B. R., was charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI), driving while license revoked (DWLR), and refusal to submit to a chemical test (Refusal), all of which are Class A Misdemeanors.
anchorage vs. B. r., district court anchorage, Alaska
facing jail time, fines, forfeiture of automobile
B. r. was an architect working for a construction engineering company. At the time of his arrest he was allegedly driving on a revoked driver's license from a prior DWI conviction less than one year earlier, and was still on probation from that charge. Since he had one prior DWI conviction (as well as a reckless driving conviction) in the last 10 years he faced a minimum jail term of 20 days on each of the DWI and refusal charges if convicted. He also faced the possibility of substantial jail time for the violation of his probation on his last DWI charge. Additionally, he would have been subject to a minimum 10 day jail term and 80 hours of community work service on the driving while license revoked charge if convicted. Finally, if convicted of DWI or Refusal, his cherry red Mustang convertible would have been forfeited to the city.
citizen complains about drunk driver
The arrest in this case occurred as a result of a citizen complaint of an intoxicated driver on a 911 telephone call. The caller indicated several specific examples of B. r.'s erratic driving and erratic behavior in a condominium complex lot. The caller reported that a red convertible Mustang had left the vicinity at a high rate of speed. The caller identified himself, his address, and identified the vehicle and license plate number driven by B. r.
police follow suspect into garage without warrant
The police dispatch officer broadcast a "locate" for the suspected DWI vehicle in the vicinity of the condominium. Shortly thereafter an officer arrived at the scene and spotted the vehicle. The officer followed the vehicle for a few blocks and turned on his overhead lights. When the Mustang did not stop, the officer activated his siren, but the Mustang continued slowly for another 4 blocks, where it pulled into a subterranean garage under a condominium complex and parked. The officer stopped his patrol vehicle just outside the garage, entered through the open garage door, and made contact with B. r., who was seated in his vehicle. The officer had B. r. get out of the vehicle, noticed signs of intoxication, and arrested him for DWI.
suspected drunk driver refuses to submit to test
After he was taken to a police substation, B. r. refused to submit to a breath test. B. r. was charged with DWI, refusal to submit to a chemical test, and driving while license revoked. B. r. initially hired an attorney that he knew. Subsequently, that attorney referred B. r. to Attorney Fred Slone, whom B. R. immediately hired to take over the case.
video shows suspect obviously drunk & refusing to test
An audio recording was made of the events that transpired at the station. On the audio recording, B. r. clearly refused to submit to a chemical test. Additionally, the audio recording, which would have been admissible at trial, indicated that B. r. was apparently quite intoxicated. Since it was clear that B. r. was driving after the officer made contact with him, the only real hope in avoiding a conviction on the three charges was to get all of the evidence after the contact with the officer excluded from trial and/or a dismissal of the charges.
illegal search & seizure
The first hurdle was the Administrative Review Hearing to avoid a revocation by the DMV. Attorney Fred Slone subpoenaed all officers that were involved in the investigation and cross-examined them at the Administrative Review Hearing. At the conclusion of the hearing, Attorney Slone argued that all evidence obtained after the arresting officer first made contact with B. r. should be excluded on the grounds that (1) the officer violated B. r.'s constitutional rights by contacting him without first having a reasonable suspicion to do so; and (2) the officer violated B. r.'s constitutional rights by entering the garage without a warrant, or sufficient emergency basis to do so.
slone save client's driver's license
The hearing officer granted Attorney Slone's request, and dismissed the DMV revocation action on the grounds that the officer did not have reasonable suspicion to contact B. r. in the first instance.
criminal charges & constitutional violations challenged
The next hurdle was the criminal case. Attorney Slone filed pretrial motions to suppress all evidence obtained after the officer first contacted B. r. and requested that the charges be dismissed. A lengthy pretrial evidentiary hearing was held over the course of three days. The arresting officer, as well as other support officers at the scene, testified. Additionally, the sergeant in charge of the dispatch control center testified, and introduced audio recordings of the conversation between the 911 caller and dispatch, as well as the conversations between dispatch and the arresting officer.
court finds search illegal & throws out evidence
At the conclusion of the hearing, the motion judge accepted Attorney Slone's argument that the officer's entry into the garage without a warrant violated B. r.'s constitutional rights. Accordingly, the judge threw out all evidence obtained after that point, and dismissed the charges.
prosecution appeals dismissal
The prosecution filed an appeal to the Alaska Court Of Appeals.
slone wins court of appeals trial
Attorney Slone responded with lengthy briefing to rebut all of the arguments made by the prosecutor. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court's ruling in favor of B. r. All charges remain dismissed, and B. r. avoided a substantial jail term, license revocation, and loss of his Mustang convertible.