Appellate court overturns lower court in Fourth Amendment DUI case

Sometimes it is a case that, on first blush, might not seem to be of greatest import from a grand perspective that is most instructive for what it can teach about the law, the appellate process and a citizen’s right to pursue justice after being wronged.

That same case — whether in Georgia or any other state — can further illustrate the need to secure diligent and vigorous legal counsel from a defense attorney with deep experience in matters relating to a federal appeal.

We invite readers to consider the case of an Ohio woman who was detained by a state trooper there and subsequently arrested for drunk driving.

She wasn’t too happy about that and fought back. She secured a victory last week when the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned an earlier decision by a lower federal court that found in favor of the trooper, citing his grant of authority as a police officer.

In short, these were the facts of the woman’s interaction with police authority. First, she was stopped for no other reason than having her high beams on. Second, and despite later tests showing that she had absolutely no alcohol in her system, the officer said her pupils were “constricted,” and he failed her across the board on a battery of field sobriety tests. Third, she spent two days in jail unable to meet bail. Fourth, the charge against her was ultimately dropped.

She sued, claiming a violation of her constitutional rights. She argued that the officer acted without probable cause, that her stop, detention and testing was an illegal search and seizure and a violation of the Fourth Amendment, and that the officer lied about her condition, knowing that she was not impaired.

Owing to the appellate court’s ruling, those allegations will now be decided by a jury, following the court’s statement acknowledging that a police officer simply does not have “free rein” to act when he or she has detained a person.

Our legal safeguards are time-honored and historical protections put into place to guard against excesses. When justice is not being served, experienced defense counsel plays a critical role in pointing that out and seeking to rectify it, as does the sound judgment of courts, as seen here on appeal.

Source:, “Ohio: Federal court overturns bogus DUI arrest,” June 19, 2012