Reasonable grounds must exist prior to the arrest for DWI

Warren vs. DOR SD32501, 12-11-13

Southern District Court of Appeals from Camden County

In this case the Department of Revenue (hereinafter “DOR”) appealed the Circuit Court’s judgment to reinstate Warren’s driving privileges, contending that that trial court misapplied the legal standard for reasonable grounds.

The arresting officer responded to the scene of a one-vehicle accident where no one was present at the scene. He determined the vehicle belonged to Warren. During his investigation he was called to assist an individual (Warren) who was requesting medical assistance five miles from the scene of the accident.  In the Findings of Fact, the trial court determined that the time of the accident was unknown and that while Warren had admitted to drinking, the time and amount of alcohol was also unknown. The trial court determined that the Officer did not have reasonable cause to arrest Warren on a charge of Driving While Intoxicated without knowing those facts.

Missouri Revised Statute 577.041.4 provides that an individual who has had his or her license revoked for a refusal may request a hearing. The court will then determine: Whether the person was stopped/arrested; whether the officer had reasonable grounds to believe the person was driving a motor vehicle under the influence; and whether the person refused. Prior case law requires that the reasonable grounds must exist at the time of the arrest. Not obtained after the fact, for example admissions after the officer has arrested the driver. It does allow for circumstantial evidence. The trial court determined reasonable grounds did not exist and the Appellate Court defers to the trier of fact for determination of credibility on circumstantial evidence.

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