Procedural 'technicalities' protect our rights in DUI cases

In 2010, a man was pulled over in Charles Town and another was pulled over in Beckley under the suspicion that they were driving while impaired. Both of these men were subsequently charged with a DUI and had their driving privileges revoked by the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles.

Later, rulings made by administrative hearing examiners and a circuit court reinstated those driving privileges on the basis that each driver was stopped by a law enforcement officer that was outside of his jurisdiction. Each of these cases made their way onto the docket of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals after the DMV appealed.

In the case of the Charles Town arrest, a city police officer reported that the individual was driving erratically within city limits. He was later charged by the West Virginia State Police. In the case of the Beckley arrest, a Sophia patrolman had pulled him over in Beckley, later calling for the assistance of the Beckley police department. The Supreme Court of Appeals ruled that in these two cases, both traffic stops were valid, reversing the lower court’s rulings.

These two cases likely caught the attention of The State Journal because they made it all the way up to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, but arguments over these little details, like whether or not a patrol officer conducted a traffic stop within his or her designated jurisdiction, are common in many DUI cases.

Have you ever heard someone say “the driver’s BAC was over the legal limit, but they got off on a technicality”? Why are these procedural technicalities so important that they could cause charges to be dismissed? The truth is that these little details are vitally important. Laws were carefully drafted and put in place to protect our constitutional rights, to safeguard against the infringement of our basic freedoms by prosecutors and law enforcement officers.

A Martinsburg criminal defense attorney is trained to spot these violations, no matter how small, to ensure that the client’s rights have not been violated in any way.

Source: The State Journal, “Drivers charged with driving under the influence lose appeals, licenses,” Feb. 20, 2014

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