An Oregon man's drunk driving conviction was reversed by the Oregon Court of Appeals because the man crossed state lines before he pulled over for a Washington State trooper.
The June decision reversed the judge's ruling in a 2011 case in which 40-year-old James Edward Keller of Beaverton, Oregon, was convicted of DUI. The appeals court found that because the Washington State Patrol trooper didn't pull over Keller until he had crossed the state line, he had no authority in Oregon.
Though the decision was reversed, the relevant facts are undisputed:
The trooper was driving an unmarked patrol car on Interstate 5 early in the morning when he saw in his rearview mirror a car approaching at a high speed. The car got so close to the trooper, he could not see the headlights in his rearview mirror. After the driver passed the patrol car, the trooper turned on his lights and sirens to try to pull over the driver.
Keller finally pulled over in Portland. Before approaching Keller, the trooper contacted the Portland police for assistance. Portland officers arrived about 10 minutes later. In the meantime, the Washington trooper approached Keller and noted that he “smelled of alcohol and had bloodshot, watery eyes, and slurred speech.” Upon investigating, Portland officers arrested Keller for driving under the influence.
At the time of his arrest, Keller had a blood alcohol level of .27 percent -- more than three times the legal limit for driving, according to The Oregonian newspaper.
Before the trial, Keller's attorney moved to suppress the evidence obtained as a result of the Washington trooper's traffic stop, contending he had no authority to stop Keller in Oregon for Washington traffic violations. However, the trial court concluded the trooper had probable cause to justify the initial traffic stop and enough reasonable suspicion of DUI to justify detaining Keller while waiting for Portland police to arrive.
The ruling could have implications for neighboring states -- Washington, California, Idaho and Nevada -- if intoxicated drivers think they can avoid charges by crossing into Oregon.
Although the three-panel appeals court reversed Keller's conviction, they did make a distinction between the trooper pursuing him and police authorized to make traffic stops across state lines. If the driver is suspected of having committed a felony and police are in “hot pursuit” when the suspect crosses into Oregon, the officers have the authority to make the stop. Because the trooper was pursuing -- but not in “hot pursuit” -- of Keller, the exception did not apply.
Per the Revised Code of Washington a person found guilty of a DUI faces up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine. For the first offense, their driver license can be suspended for a year. For a second offense the license can be suspended for 30 months. For the third offense, it is suspended for four years. In all instances, a defendant found guilty must have an ignition interlock device installed on their vehicle at their own expense.
A DUI conviction can have serious, long-term implications. If you have been arrested for driving under the influence, call the Seattle law office of Steve Karimi at (206) 621-8777 or contact him online.