Saturday, February 05, 2011

DUI Appeal of the Day (DAD) - Unwitnessed violations, Touching Lines, Turn Signal Issues make Bad Stop

In State of Missouri v. Loyd, --- S.W.3d ----, 2010 WL 5150173 (Mo.App. W.D.) the defendant driver exited a casino parking lot, turning right onto the roadway, allegedly without first using a turn signal. On appeal, the court found that a turn signal was not required when turning from private property onto a public highway. Finding that the 'rules of the road' only applied to vehicles on a public roadway, the court also construed the turn signal statute as only requiring signaling when the approach to the turn (where the duty to signal begins) is also on a public roadway. NOTE: most state statutes on turn signals are similar in this regard - does anyone use a turn signal when exiting their driveway?
The State also tried to argue that the defendant violated another law when he turned into the center lane instead of the nearest lane. A videotape confirmed the event. However, the appeals court rejected this incident as a basis for the stop, because:

We need not be detained by this issue because the State concedes on appeal, as it must, that the officer testified at the hearing that he was unaware of this alleged traffic violation until after he reviewed the dash cam video of the incident, which the officer did not review until after he had detained and arrested Loyd. “ ‘Probable cause to arrest exists when the arresting officer's knowledge of the particular facts and circumstances is sufficient to warrant a prudent person's belief that a suspect has committed an offense.’ “ State v. Clayton, 995 S.W.2d 468, 477 (Mo. banc 1999) (quoting State v. Tokar, 918 S.W.3d 753, 757 (Mo. Banc 1996)). “Whether there is probable cause to arrest depends on the information in the officers' possession prior to the arrest
.” Id .
The above appellate court position is certainly valuable, as many other state courts might uphold stops based on unwitnessed violations., so long as they are on videotape.
The State also tried to support the stop based upon the driver's touching of the center line:
At the suppression hearing, the officer testified that prior to pulling over the vehicle, he observed Loyd's car driving “with its right wheels on the center line as it went around the corner.” The dash cam video supports that Loyd's tires did touch, but not cross, the white stripes dividing the lanes. This Court has previously held that such a minor deviation does not provide the police probable cause to detain the driver in order to cite him for a traffic violation. “[T]here is extensive case law from numerous jurisdictions holding that slightly crossing over the fog line once or twice for a moment does not, in and of itself, justify a traffic stop.” State v. Abeln, 136 S.W.3d 803, 810, n. 7 (Mo.App.W.D.2004) (citations omitted); see also State v. Mendoza, 75 S.W.3d 842, 845-46 (Mo.App.S.D.2002) (holding that driving “onto but not over the left yellow line” did not “justify the issuance of a warning,” and therefore finding that the police “lacked probable cause or reasonable suspicion to stop Mendoza's vehicle”).

Also of interest in this case is the discussion regarding the correct procedure for preserving error when a motion to suppress is denied:

While Loyd argued his motion to suppress immediately prior to the beginning of trial, it is not disputed that he failed to preserve his claim in this regard at trial through an appropriate objection. “Absent an objection at trial to the admission of the evidence challenged in the motion, the issue is not preserved for appellate review.”

Many states have similar requirements. As a result of Loyd's failure to preserve the error, he had to appeal under a more onerous ground - the plain error rule. Although in this case the defense was ultimately successful on appeal, at trial defense counsel should always renew the objection to admission of evidence based upon a denial of a motion to suppress.

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