Probable cause to arrest on a DWI is a legal issue when the facts are not contested

In Lord vs. The Director of Revenue the trial court in the Circuit Court of St. Louis County found that the officer lacked probable cause to arrest Lord and reinstated her license. This appeal followed. The Appellate Court found that Lord did not dispute the evidence presented by the Director of Revenue, nor did she point out consistencies or question the officer’s credibility.

This made the issue not a factual issue which requires deference to the trial court, but a legal issue which can be determined by the Appellate Court. “The level of proof required to show probable cause is much less than that required to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Velluto, 383 S.W.3d at 18. There is no precise test for determining whether probable cause exists. Hinnah v. Dir. of Revenue, 77 S.W.3d 616, 621 (Mo. banc 2002). Instead, “[p]robable cause to arrest exists when the arresting officer’s knowledge of the particular facts and circumstances is sufficient to warrant a prudent person’s belief that a suspect has committed an offense.” Id. Whether the arresting officer had probable cause to arrest Lord for driving while intoxicated is therefore “determined by examining the circumstances surrounding the arrest as they appeared to a prudent, cautious, and trained police officer.” Gannon, 411 S.W.3d at 397 (citing Coyle v. Director of Revenue, 88 S.W.3d 887, 893 (Mo. App. W.D. 2002)).”

The Appellate Court determined that the uncontested facts provided enough of a legal basis for probable cause. The case was remanded to St. Louis County on the issue of probable cause. Note the court did not determine if the alcohol content was in excess of .08.


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