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DUI conviction reversed because driver did not break traffic laws

An appeals court overturned a North Carolina driver’s DUI conviction whose blood alcohol content test results showed 0.16. According to The News & Observer, the presiding judge determined that the officer did not have probable cause to pull her over. The judge’s decision to reverse the conviction was based on the fact that the motorist did not break any traffic laws while driving on Interstate 95.

The case focused on the Fourth Amendment and its protection against an unreasonable search, which may include testing an individual’s blood for alcohol. In order for a law enforcement official to administer a roadside BAC test, there must be probable cause that a driver is impaired. Noticeable signs of intoxication generally include slurred speech, swerving between lanes and strong odors of alcohol. Reportedly, the motorist was driving normally when the arresting officer pulled her over.

While the officer admitted that the motorist was neither swerving or weaving, and that she was driving the normal speed limit, he nevertheless stopped her on the highway. Her car’s lights were working and she had her seat belt on. The officer, however, testified in court that he witnessed her drinking earlier during the day on a porch. After she later went to a gas station and bought some beer, the patrol official pulled her over.

The judge determined, however, that because she did not break a traffic law, the arresting officer did not have probable cause for stopping her vehicle. According to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, a state trooper may request that a motorist submit to a breathalyzer or blood test when stopped for alcohol-related offenses, which may include speeding, swerving or damaging property with a motor vehicle.

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