Joe Suhre | August 9, 2016 | Criminal Law
Well, according to a recent Court of Appeals ruling, a wife’s call to a DUI hotline was not sufficient reason for a trooper to pull over her husband.
In that case, the husband began packing his things and loading his car after he had been drinking and he and his wife were arguing. Despite being begged by his wife not to drive because he had been drinking alcohol, the husband planned to drive anyway. The couple’s daughter called 800-GRAB-DUI to report her father’s plans to drive and the wife placed a second call soon after, telling the dispatcher “My husband is in the car trying to leave and he’s been drinking all day.”
An Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper appeared at the house, the husband pulled out of his driveway and the trooper followed him for a short distance and made the traffic stop. The trooper did not observe any traffic violations. The husband admitted to the trooper that he had been drinking alcohol and, according to the trooper, the husband’s eyes were glassy and bloodshot. The husband was asked to do the standard field sobriety tests, including the walk and turn and one legged stand. He had difficulty performing these tests and was placed under arrest for OVI. The husband in this case is not a sympathetic figure as this was charged as a felony of the 3rd degree due to this being his second felony OVI charge.
The trooper testified at a suppression hearing that in 800-GRAB-DUI cases he usually waits for the suspect to commit a traffic violation but, he pulled the husband over before he saw a traffic violation because the person calling in was a member of the husband’s family and not an anonymous caller. So, the trooper was saying that the “tipster” was reliable since it was the wife and not an anonymous person.
The husband filed a Motion to Suppress saying the stop was improper. His Motion failed as he lost the suppression hearing and was sentenced to, among other things, two years in prison and a 15 year license suspension.
He appealed to the Court of Appeals and the Court of Appeals said that although spouse’s tip was reliable, it did not create reasonable suspicion that the defendant was operating a motor vehicle while under the influence and since the trooper did not witness any erratic driving then there was not sufficient indicia of reliability to make the stop. So the Court said basically, yes the wife is a reliable, not anonymous, person but since there was no traffic violation by the husband to back up the wife’s call indicating the husband was under the influence, then the trooper did not have enough reason to pull the husband over.
Ultimately, the case against husband was dismissed because when the Court of Appeals issued this ruling the Prosecutor’s office was left with not enough evidence to prosecute husband.
This may outrage some. A husband and father with many prior drunken driving convictions, drinks all day, gets in an argument with his wife and decides to drive when he is under the influence. The wife does the responsible thing and calls the police. But, all charges ultimately get dismissed. This could be outrageous to some.
This may be an appropriate decision to some. Suppose husband and father has not been drinking at all, gets in an argument with his wife and decides to drive off. The wife calls the police and says husband has been drinking. Without any erratic driving at all, husband is pulled over by police. This could be an appropriate decision to some as a means of preventing abuse of police powers by a vengeful family member or members.
Like many situations in the legal arena, there is a debatable result here. In actuality, most law enforcement officers will be sure they observe “erratic driving” to back up the reliability of the tip.