Drug recognition expert not required for probable cause to arrest

The recent decision in Hill vs Department of Revune WD 76689, delves into the issue of probable cause to believe a driver is intoxicated or in a drugged condition.

The driver, Hill, was observed by the officer driving erratically. Officer Hotmer stopped Hill. The Officer testified that he noted several indicia of intoxication, but not the smell of alcohol. The Officer requested that Hill submit to a blood test. Further, the Officer requested the assistance of drug recognition expert. Hill admitted to taking Zoloft prior to driving. Hill refused the blood test.

The Department of Revenue suspended his license for one year due to the refusal. Hill brought the matter before the trial court, which affirmed his suspension. Hill then filed this appeal. The basis for his argument is that there was not enough probable cause to believe he was operating a motor vehicle in a drugged or intoxicated state.

“Hill bases his argument on the fact that Officer Hotmer was not trained as an expert in detecting drug impairment and he was unable to secure a DRE to examine Hill.” WD76689.

“Hill fails to cite any authority in support of his conclusory argument that “expert” determination of drug intoxication is an essential requisite to establishing reasonable grounds to believe a driver is intoxicated.4 “An appellant has an obligation to cite appropriate and available precedent if he expects to prevail, and, if no authority is available to cite, he should explain the reason for the absence of citations.Brown v. Ameristar Casino Kansas City, Inc., 211 S.W.3d 145, 148 (Mo. App. W.D. 2007). “When ‘the appellant neither cites relevant authority nor explains why such authority is not available, the appellate court is justified in considering the points abandoned and dismiss[ing] the appeal.'” Id. (citation omitted).” WD76689

” ‘Whether the driver is under the influence of alcohol or any other substance is irrelevant. The relevant inquiry is whether or not the arresting officer had reasonable grounds for believing that the arrested person was driving while in either an intoxicated or drugged condition.’ ” (citation omitted) WD76689

” ‘Probable cause exists when a police officer observes illegal operation of a motor vehicle and indicia of intoxication upon contacting the motorist.’ “(citation omitted). WD76689

“Further, Officer Hotmer testified on cross-examination that he requested the help of a DRE after he arrested Hill. Plainly, it is of no consequence that Officer Hotmer sought the assistance of a DRE after he arrested Hill. ‘Whether there is probable cause to arrest depends on the information in the officers’ possession prior to the arrest.’” (citation omitted) WD76689.

The appellate court affirmed the suspension of Hills license.

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