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DUI Probable Cause

March 05, 2013

DUI Probable Cause

Case:  State of Tennessee v. David Dwayne Bell

Facts:  Defendant was stopped for driving in the wrong direction.  He admitted to consuming some alcohol, and the arresting officer testified that Defendant smelled of alcohol and failed some (but not all) of the six field sobriety tests administered.  At the suppression hearing, the judge found Defendant “did pretty dog-gone good” on the tests and that he (the judge) “couldn’t pass them as well as [Defendant] did.”  The judge determined that the arrest lacked probable cause, and thus suppressed the subsequent blood test.

Appellate Decision:  The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the suppression under a deferential review of the facts, noting that all information available is pertinent to probable cause.  Even if there was initially probable cause for arrest, it dissipated once Defendant passed all of the field sobriety tests.

Issue:  Did passing each field sobriety test thwart probable cause?

Review Granted:  March 5, 2013.

Prediction:  Ben thinks the supreme court is likely to affirm.  The court will probably clarify that passed field sobriety tests are not necessarily dispositive if there is other evidence of impairment, but will ultimately hold here there was no probable cause under the totality of the circumstances.