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DUI Arrest

September 26, 2014

DUI Arrest

CaseState of Tennessee v. Mechelle L. Montgomery

Issue:  Can an officer detain a DUI suspect for fifteen minutes without performing any DUI investigation to wait for additional information regarding an unrelated crime involving the suspect?

Facts:  A Deputy saw a vehicle in a parking lot that matched the description of a vehicle mentioned in an “unwanted subject” 911 call. The Deputy pulled next to the vehicle and identified the driver as the person identified as the “unwanted subject,” and then observed the person showed signs of intoxication. The Deputy took her identification, which the State conceded constituted a seizure. The Deputy then waited 10-15 minutes for another officer to report back regarding the “unwanted subject” issue before conducting any DUI investigation. The trial court suppressed the subsequently-collected evidence on the basis that the Deputy had no basis to detain the suspect without doing further DUI investigation.

Appellate Decision:  The intermediate court affirmed suppression in a split decision. The majority concluded that there was no reason for the Deputy—who was trained in DUI investigation—to fail to make any efforts to confirm or dispel his suspicions that a DUI crime had been committed and to instead wait for the other officer. Judge (now Justice) Bivens dissented, writing that a delay of 10-15 minutes was not an unreasonable delay under the circumstances.

Review Granted:  September 19, 2014.

Prediction:  Ben thinks the Supreme Court will reverse for the reasons cited in the dissent. Here, where the principal reason for the stop was unrelated to DUI, it was not unreasonable for the Deputy wait 10-15 minutes to seek further information about the underlying situation before proceeding on the DUI as long as there was reasonable suspicion of some offense.