In a ruling last week, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals upheld a decision by a trial court which resulted in dismissing DUI charges against a man stemming from a 2009 arrest.
During the trial court proceedings, the defendant argued that he was arrested without probable cause, and therefore evidence obtained after his arrest should be suppressed. The trial court agreed with the defendant and granted his motion to suppress the results of a blood alcohol content (BAC) test, and dismissed the charges against him. The state then appealed the ruling by the trial court.
The incident occurred in May of 2009. A Sevierville police officer said that although the defendant performed relatively well on all the field sobriety tests, he thought he could “smell an odor of alcohol” on him. The officer also testified that “based on what my experience with what I’ve seen working the street, I was under the feeling [that the defendant] was under the influence of alcohol.”
The police officer was working at a traffic stop and never personally saw the defendant drive his vehicle, but a deputy informed him that the defendant had been driving the wrong way on the Parkway. The defendant admitted to making a wrong turn, but because of construction other drivers had also made that same error.
Individuals are constitutionally protected against unlawful arrests. The appeals court stated “…[T]here was not probable cause to arrest the defendant for DUI given the totality of the circumstances. The State is not required to perform field sobriety tests on an individual prior to arresting him or her for driving under the influence. However, if the State chooses to administer such tests, it may not simply disregard the results if the individual involved performs them well.”
Since there was no probable cause for the arrest, the blood test was suppressed as “fruit of the poisonous tree.”
Source: The Mountain Press, “Appeals court upholds judge’s decision to toss DUI charges,” Stan Voit, September 4, 2012
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