Can a police officer pull drivers over—and subsequently charge them with DUI—just because their vehicles crossed the center line? A Tennessee court has said yes. While it won’t affect anyone contesting a DUI in Los Angeles, the court’s ruling in the Volunteer State seems to be bucking a national trend that has made it harder for prosecutors to get DUI convictions.
In a ruling that combined two different cases, State v. Linzey Danielle Smith and State v. William Whitlow Davis, Jr., the Tennessee Supreme Court found that police officers were acting within the law when they stopped the defendants for traffic violations in two separate incidents. The defendants, whom police charged with DUI, had argued that the officers had violated their constitutional rights prohibiting unlawful seizure because they did not have probable cause to make the stop.
Davis’ case dates back to 2009, when a deputy from the Knox County Sheriff’s Office pulled him over because Davis vehicle had crossed the center line on a curvy, two-land road. The deputy reported that Davis, an attorney, had slurred speech and smelled of alcohol, and charged the driver with DUI.
In Smith’s case, a Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper had followed her car on I-65 and observed her crossing the right fog line with both right tires of her vehicle. She also showed signs of intoxication.
The court addressed two separate Tennessee statutes in its decision. One makes it a violation to stray outside a lane unless some obstacle or weather condition (like a high wind) forces the driver to move over. The court found there were no such factors involved the night that Smith was driving.
Davis’ appeal rested on the fact that his vehicle had crossed the center line only once. But the court said that the number of times wasn’t relevant, since the law made crossing a center line a traffic violation that is subject to a traffic stop.
In both cases, therefore, the Court ruled that the police officers had sufficient reason to pull the drivers over and gather evidence that resulted in their DUI arrests.
If you need to develop a sound, systematic defense to a Los Angeles DUI charge, call experienced Los Angeles DUI defense lawyer, Michael Kraut, of the Kraut Law Group.