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Driver wins appeal on lack of probable cause

Posted on September 5, 2019 in Drunk Driving

In Arizona, police must have what is known as “probable cause” before they can make a DUI arrest. That means the officer must be able to point to some specific fact about something the driver did to cause the officer to believe that the driver is drunk and violating the law.

The Arizona Court of Appeals recently made it clear that a Mesa cop did not have probable cause when he pulled a driver over in December of 2017. The officer was looking for drunk drivers as part of the East Valley DUI task force.

So the officer positioned himself near O’Kelley’s Sports Bar and Grill and watched. He saw the man drive out of the parking lot of the strip mall next to the bar and decided to follow. He followed the driver for about two miles.

During that drive, the driver never exceeded the speed limit and he violated no traffic laws, the officer conceded. The man behind the wheel also showed no other signs of being impaired, yet the cop pulled him over anyway.

The Mesa Municipal Court ruled that the traffic stop was improper, but that decision was reversed on appeal by the Maricopa County Superior Court. But the three-judge appellate panel overturned that decision, ruling that the officer had acted on nothing more than a hunch – and that’s just not good enough.

“The officer did not provide a factual basis for his suspicion that [the driver] was impaired,” the appeals court stated. “Indeed, the court specifically found the officer had no objective reason to believe [the driver] was not conducting legitimate business within the strip mall.” The court also stated it was reversing the Superior Court because it had “erred in substituting its judgment for that of the municipal court.”

A qualified, knowledgeable criminal defense attorney can help the justice system work for you, too. If you’ve been arrested for drunk driving, contact our office to begin defending your freedom, driving privileges and rights.

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