Missouri appellate court rules on DWI probable cause standard

A recent Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District decision continues to give law enforcement a low burden to show probable cause to pull a DWI suspect over.

The case is Brian Charles Srader v. the Department of Revenue.  Srader was arrested for driving while intoxicated on February 15, 2015.  A breath test was performed on Srader at the police station.  The test showed that he had a blood alcohol content of .122 percent.  The Director of Revenue then suspended his driving privileges. Srader then petitioned the circuit court for a trial de novo with the sole witness being the arresting officer.  After the trial, the court entered its judgment to set aside the suspension of Srader’s driving privileges. The judge had found that the Director’s evidence was credible and that Srader had a BAC level over the legal limit of .08 percent. Despite the strong evidence for intoxication, the judge ruled that the arresting officer lacked probable cause to arrest Srader for an alcohol-related traffic offense.  The Director of Revenue appealed to the court of appeals.

The appellate court reversed and remanded the circuit court’s decision. It held that the evidence which the circuit court found credible also established multiple indicia of intoxication. And these multiple indicia of intoxication was enough to establish probable cause for the arrest.  For example, the officer had seen Srader driving erratically.  And after the stop, the officer stated that Srader’s eyes were watery, glassy, and bloodshot and his speech was slurred.  Furthermore, the officer testified that Srader made inconsistent and suspicious statements about where he was coming from and if he had had anything to drink. Srader also voluntarily submitted to a breath test which showed that alcohol was present.

The court said that these facts when taken together was enough to show to the senses of a reasonably prudent person that Srader had been driving while intoxicated.  The circuit court had erred by concluding that probable cause was lacking in the arrest.

The opinion was written by Judge Alok Ahuja. The other two judges were Cynthia L. Martin and Lisa White Hardwick.  Attorney for the appellant was Rachel M. Jones. Theodore D. Barnes was attorney for respondent.

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