Tag Archives: traffic lawyer st louis

Court privacy ruling protects driver of borrowed rental car

Picture yourself driving a rental car that was rented by your friend or a family member. You are then pulled over by the police. The police want to search the vehicle. Do you let them? Do you even have a choice?

A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling this week gave us clear answers. This Country’s high court said that people who borrow rental cars from family or friends are generally entitled to the same protections against police searches as the actual authorized driver who rented the vehicle.

The decision was unanimous. If a person is in lawful possession and control of the rental car they are deemed to have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the car, even if the rental agreement doesn’t list them as an authorized driver. Therefore, the police will have to have probable cause of a crime committed or a warrant to search the car.

The argument by the current administration was that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy of an unauthorized driver in a borrowed car. Therefore, police could search it without the unauthorized driver’s consent. Attorneys who argued against the search stated that around 115 million car rentals occur each year in the United States. And if the government wins their argument, police would be given an incentive to pull over a rental car driver who commits a traffic violation because they would know they have the right to search it if the driver is not on the rental agreement.

The case involved a driver named Terrence Byrd who in 2014 was driving his fiancée’s rental car on a highway in Pennsylvania. A state trooper stopped him alleging he had committed a minor traffic violation. The troopers observed that Byrd was acting nervously during the stop and he went on to admit that he had a marijuana cigarette in the car. The officers then searched the vehicle, telling Byrd that they did not need his consent because his name was not on the authorization form. When they opened the trunk they discovered 2,500 bags of heroin and body armor. Byrd would later admit that he planned to sell the drugs for $7,000. Byrd received a 10-year prison sentence.

Cops need a warrant to get your vehicle’s black box data

Missouri cops will need to get a search warrant before they can access data from your automobile’s black box.

A recent decision in the Western District of Missouri basically blocks law enforcement from obtaining your black box data after an accident, unless you either consent or they get a warrant.

The appellate court took up the case of a man that had been stopped at traffic and was struck by a semi from behind. The Missouri Highway Patrol then downloaded the data stored on the semi’s electronic control module (ECM). Officers did not use a warrant and argued that there were exigent circumstances, therefore, the semi driver had no expectation of privacy of the data. Up to then, obtaining the black box data had been standard procedure for the highway patrol.

The patrol officer claimed that the driver had given him consent, but that box had not been checked off in his police report. The appellate court relied on a recent US Supreme Court case on GPS spying to find the police arguments were insufficient.

Judge Cynthia L. Martin wrote: “Sergeant Meyers’s testimony underscores that ECM data was seized from West’s truck not because there was probable cause to believe that West had committed a crime and that evidence of the crime could be found in the truck, but instead to investigate an accident to determine whether West had committed a crime.”

The court added that to allow warrantless searches on these grounds would “emasculate” the Fourth Amendment to the constitution.

Here is an unofficial summary of the case and should not be used as legal doctrine:

(1) The State’s arguments on appeal asserting error in granting the motion to suppress which were not raised with the trial court are not preserved for appellate review.

(2) Either a reasonable expectation of privacy or trespass on a possessory interest in a Fourth Amendment protected effect will afford standing to assert a Fourth Amendment violation. Here, West was the lawful operator and possessor of the semitruck at the time the police physically intruded into the semi-truck’s passenger compartment to connect a computer to the ECM located underneath the semi-truck’s dash. That physical intrusion into, and occupation of, the semi-truck constituted an actionable trespass into a protected Fourth Amendment effect (a vehicle) which afforded West standing to move to suppress the data downloaded from the ECM.

(3) The automobile exception allows police to search a vehicle and seize
contraband found therein without a warrant if there is probable cause to believe that the vehicle contains contraband and exigent circumstances necessitate the search. The State presented no evidence during the hearing on the motion to suppress to suggest or establish that the police had probable cause to believe that contraband or illegal items were located in the semi-truck.

(4) While the State presented testimony that ECM data might be overwritten if the semi-truck was moved, the trial court did not find this evidence to be sufficient to constitute an exigent circumstance permitting a warrantless search. The trial court’s finding was supported by substantial evidence.

(State of Missouri v. Anthony West, WD80879)

Legislature proposes a bill to curb racial profiling by law enforcement

Lawmakers in Missouri are reviewing a bill that is designed to curb discriminatory policing among law enforcement agencies. The bill, which recently had a hearing before a legislative committee, calls for disciplinary options and procedures that would be a check on discriminatory practices.

The bill places penalties on both individual law enforcement and on their agency when they are found engaging in discriminatory policing or racial profiling. Discipline could include counseling, termination, or training of any officer found to have engaged in discriminatory policing.

If a law enforcement department is found to have a disproportionate number of minority drivers stopped compared to the state average, the attorney general can provide resources to address it. If the problem continues for another three years, the attorney general could remove the agency’s funding by directing the local governing body to forfeit 25% of the police department’s revenue received from court costs, bond forfeitures, and fines.

Additionally, the bill calls for officers to use a consent search policy and requires information to be gathered from every vehicle stop. The data collected will then be analyzed by the attorney general.

The consent search would require that an officer prior to requesting a search would have to clearly state, either orally or in writing, in a language the person being questioned clearly understands that their consent must be voluntary.

Next, an officer would have to get recorded audio or video or written consent from the person who was stopped.

Officers will be expected to collect 11 pieces of information that include a reason for the stop, whether a search was conducted, and whether a warning or citation was issued.

Then by March 1st of each year, the agency must submit its report to the attorney general who will analyze the data and submit a report to the state legislature by June 1st of each year.

MO flunks traffic safety: texting, open container laws cited

Missouri needs to evaluate its traffic safety laws. A recent report by a coalition of safety and health groups rated Missouri’s traffic laws towards the bottom of all 50 states.

According to Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (AHAS), a Washington D.C. group of health companies, insurance agencies and safety companies that encourages the enactment of federal and state laws, the state of Missouri tied for fourth worst in the nation when it comes to safety laws.

The low grading stems from Missouri’s legal code only containing four of the 16 laws the AHAS considers essential for driving and safety.

OPEN CONTAINER LAWS

The AHAS dings Missouri for its open container laws. The state is one of only six states without a statewide open container law. Strict open container laws are said to be helping other states reduce fatal auto accidents.

Although St. Louis and Kansas City do not have ordinances for open containers, the City of Maryville is one of the few that has passed its own. But Maryville does not have a primary seatbelt law.

PRIMARY SEATBELT LAWS

Missouri is one of only 15 states without a primary seatbelt law that would give law enforcement power to stop drivers for simply not wearing a seatbelt. Data suggests that 81 percent of the state’s residents use seatbelts, which is actually 7 percent lower than the national average.

DISTRACTED DRIVING

The state was also marked down for its laws on distracted driving, such as texting. Although the state bans texting for those 21 and younger, safety advocates say it needs to be broader. Word has it that the state may soon be expanding its anti-texting and driving laws to all drivers, not just those 21 and younger.

CAR SEATS

Missouri was also criticized for its age requirements for infants in rear-facing car seats. The American Academy of Pediatrics says infants and toddlers need to sit in a rear-facing seat until they are at least two-years-old, or until an infant meets the manufacturer’s height and weight restrictions. However, state law only requires rear facing seats until the infant is a year old and 20 pounds.

Rehabilitation specialists help extend your ability to drive

As you get older and into your Golden Years, your driving skills begin to deteriorate. Your ability to respond as quickly as you did compared to just 5 years before is noticeable not only to your friends and family but to you. Your confidence to drive at night is diminished. If this is a scenario for you or a loved one, then you may want to consider having a driving evaluation done by a certified driving rehabilitation specialist. This person can help you to adapt new technology to extend your driving years.

Because of new technology, your ability to drive into later years of your life has been extended. Some of these adaptive technologies are as simple as swivel seats for more convenient access or hand controls for a driver to safely operate a vehicle.

But each person and their skill and physical levels are different and require different forms of technology. The NHTSA recommends seeking the help of a driver rehabilitation specialist to help people choose the correct adaptive devices for their automobiles.

A rehabilitation specialist will take into consideration your future equipment needs based on your medical condition and the repetitive stress an adaptive aid may place on a particular muscle group.

Also expect a vision screening as well as testing for muscle strength, flexibility, and range of motion; coordination and reaction time; judgment and decision-making abilities; and ability to drive with adaptive equipment. Once the evaluation is done, you should get a report with recommendations for you such as restrictions or requirements and a list of any vehicle requirements and modifications. You will likely also receive a recommendation for on-the-road training to practice using the new equipment and to learn safe driving habits.

To find a qualified driver rehabilitation specialist, you’ll find rehabilitation centers for each State listed on the Websites for the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists (ADED) and the American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc. (AOTA). These associations maintain lists of qualified driver rehabilitation specialists in most states. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has put together helpful information called “Adapting Motor Vehicles for Older Drivers.” See their Website.

FAQs about Missouri’s Chemical Revocation Laws

You are driving home from a party. In your rear view mirror you see the red lights and hear the siren of police car pulling you over. The problem is you had a few drinks, but you’re not sure just how much alcohol you have had. Questions race through your mind. Do I blow in a machine that tests my alcohol content?

You are now being arrested for driving while intoxicated. The police officer asks you to submit to a chemical test to determine your blood alcohol content or drug level.

While you have 20 minutes to contact an attorney to ask what to do, sometimes you simply aren’t able to get in touch with an attorney. You are confused on whether to say “Yes” or “No.” If you say, “No,” and refuse to blow, the State of Missouri deems you to have consented to such testing under its “implied consent” law. Again, you have the right to refuse to submit to the test but if you refuse to take the alcohol or drug test, your Missouri driving privilege will be revoked for one year. This is known as a “Chemical Revocation.”

The topic of chemical revocation can be confusing. The Missouri Department of Revenue has a helpful Website that provides a lot of information related to the implied consent law and chemical revocation. Here are a few Q&A’s from the DOR that will help answer some of your questions:

Can I have any type of driving privilege while I am under a Chemical Revocation?

You may be eligible for a Limited Driving Privilege (LDP). The LDP may be used for work, your alcohol program, medical treatment, school, etc. You must install an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) and file an SR-22 form.

Do I need an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) to reinstate my Missouri driving privilege after I have served my 1-year revocation period?

If your driver record shows more than one intoxication-related law enforcement contact, you are required to have an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) installed on any vehicle you operate. You must maintain the device for a minimum period of six months from the reinstatement date. You will be monitored during the last three months of the six-month period. If you have any violations, as determined by the device manufacturer during the monitoring period, your requirement to maintain the device will be extended until you complete a three-consecutive-month period without violation. Violations are defined in 7 CSR 60-2.010 (refer to “violations reset” language).

What is an SR-22 insurance filing?

An SR-22 form is an insurance filing from your insurance company that shows your motor vehicle has liability insurance.

How long do I need the SR-22 insurance filing?

You must file the SR-22 form for two years from the effective date of your Chemical Revocation.

Why do I need to complete a Substance Abuse Traffic Offender Program (SATOP) if I was not convicted (or, I was convicted of a lesser charge)?

If you have an alcohol offense, such as an alcohol or drug revocation on your driver record, the law requires you to complete a SATOP (or comparable course) as a condition of reinstating your driving privilege in Missouri.

Where can I get information about Substance Abuse Traffic Offender Program (SATOP) courses?

Information regarding SATOP courses is available on the Missouri Department of Mental Health, Division of Behavioral Health website. For a SATOP provider near you check out our list of SATOP providers.

How do I appeal the revocation of my driving privilege?

You must petition the Circuit or Associate Circuit Court in the county where the arrest or stop occurred. A petition for review must be filed within 30 days from the date the Notice of Revocation is issued. If the arrest or stop occurred in another state, you must petition the Cole County Circuit Court, in Jefferson City, Missouri.

When will the Chemical Revocation come off my driver record?

A Chemical Revocation (for refusal to submit to an alcohol or drug test) is a permanent part of the record and can never be removed.

Missouri’s license suspension process can be confusing

In a previous blog, we discussed how accumulating too many points within a short period of time can lead to a suspension of your driving privileges.

We talked about how every year you drive without getting new points on your record, the points will be reduced. For example, 1 year — total remaining points reduced by one-third; 2 years — remaining points reduced by one-half; and 3 years — points reduced to zero. Please note that although your points may be reduced to zero, certain types of convictions must remain listed permanently on your Missouri driver record.

During the point suspension process and after, you may have a few questions. The Department of Revenue offers information on its website that answer some of those questions.

Why is my driving privilege suspended, revoked, or denied?

There are a number of reasons why your driver license may be suspended, revoked, or denied. You can find out why you are suspended, revoked, or denied from the letter(s) you received or by contacting the Department of Revenue.

Can I check my driver record?
Yes. Call (573) 526-2407 to find out about non-personal information such as traffic tickets and suspension/revocation-related information. You may also get a copy of your driver record.

How can I get my driving privilege reinstated?
Your specific reinstatement requirements are based on the type of suspension, revocation, or denial action(s) on your driver record. For more information, visit the License Reinstatement Requirements page of the DOR website. You can also contact the DOR staff by e-mail to find out what your reinstatement requirements are.

Am I eligible for a Restricted Driving Privilege (RDP)?
The Department only issues Restricted Driving Privileges (RDP) for first-time alcohol point suspensions. For information about the RDP, visit the Restricted Driving Privilege (RDP) page of the DOR website

Am I eligible for a Limited Driving Privilege (LDP)?
If you cannot get your driver license back, but you need to drive for employment or other important matters, you may apply for a Limited Driving Privilege (LDP). You may get an LDP unless you have certain convictions or losses of license on your driver record. Some convictions or loss of license are so serious that an LDP may not be granted. Visit the Limited Driving Privilege (LDP) page of the DOR website for reasons why you may not be eligible for an LDP. Please note: A person cannot obtain an LDP to drive a commercial motor vehicle.

Where and how do I apply for a Limited Driving Privilege (LDP)?
For information about the Limited Driving Privilege (LDP), visit the Limited Driving Privilege (LDP) page of the DOR website. In some situations, you may have to petition the Court in the County in which you live.

Where do I appeal the suspension, revocation, or denial of my driver license?
You may appeal a driver license suspension, revocation, or denial in the circuit court of the county where you live within 30 days after the notice of suspension, revocation, or denial is issued.

Visit the Department of Revenue website for more information:

Winter snow and ice driving calls for a cautious mindset

Winter is now upon us. Very soon this season, there inevitably will be snow, ice or some combination of the two. Snow and ice can play havoc upon drivers, often causing travel delays and lots of accidents, many of which can be avoided.

When driving through a snowing or ice condition, it is important to change your attitude about travel. Your number one concern should be safety and not getting home or to the party on time. In fact, it is often better to cancel your plans if you don’t have to be out on the road.

Nevertheless, there will always be times when despite the difficult conditions, you will have to venture out on snow and ice to get somewhere. If that is the case, the Department of Revenue’s Safe Travel Guide offers several tips. Just remember the following rhyme: “Ice and Snow — Take it slow!”

Here are tips from the DOR for safe winter driving:
*In winter, clean all snow and ice off your windows, headlights, and taillights.
*Be sure your windshield wipers and defroster are working.
*No matter how far you are going to drive, never start driving until all snow and ice is off your windows.
*Check your tires. Your vehicle should have tires that are rated for driving in snow. If you do not have tires that are rated for driving in snow, you should have chains ready to put on your tires during bad weather. But even if you have “snow” tires or chains, you cannot drive safely on snow or ice at normal speeds. If there is snow or ice on the road, slow down and do not use your vehicle’s cruise control system.
*When starting on snow or ice, start slowly and smoothly.
*If your tires start to spin, try clearing a path by driving backwards and forwards a few times.
*If that does not help, spread some abrasive material like salt, sand, or cat box litter around your wheels.
*NEVER let anyone stand in line with your wheels. Your wheels may throw up gravel or ice and cause an injury.
*Once you have started, try to get the feel of the road. Gently brake while driving to see how slippery the road is and then adjust your speed for the road conditions.
*Important Note: It will take longer to stop your vehicle when driving on snow or ice. So be sure to leave a safe distance, about 8 to 10 seconds, between your vehicle and any vehicle ahead of you.
*When you want to slow down or stop, apply the brakes gently and smoothly. Never slam on your brakes — this may cause you to skid. On very slippery surfaces, pump the brakes by gently pushing down and letting up on them several times. If your vehicle is equipped with an anti-lock brake system, refer to your owner’s manual for proper braking techniques in special situations.
*Remember that bridges and overpasses will freeze and become slippery before other parts of the road, and be aware that even on cleared roads a few ice patches may still exist.
*If you have a four-wheel drive vehicle, DO NOT use the four-wheel drive on ice. Four-wheel drive vehicles can easily overturn on ice. If you hit an icy patch in four-wheel drive, take your foot off the accelerator.

Nighttime driving safety tips to help you Arrive Alive

There are hundreds of traffic accidents every year in the state of Missouri. Some even resulting in deaths. Most of the time the accidents are a result of careless driving from not using common sense or defensive driving techniques.
The Missouri Department of Revenue has published a small book called the Safe Driver Guide. One chapter deals solely with driver safety during special driving conditions.
For example, night driving increases the chance of an accident for many reasons, one of which is simply the glare of oncoming headlights that make it more difficult to see the road ahead of you, not to mention the impact that darkness surrounding you limits what you can see. Please be aware that you must use your headlights any time weather conditions require the use of your windshield wipers.
Here are a few tips for night driving:
• Make sure your windows are clean.
• Turn your headlights on from ½ hour after sunset until ½ hour before sunrise.
• Make sure your headlights are clean and working well. Have them checked from time to time for correct aim.
• Use your high beams only when there are no oncoming vehicles.
• Do not overdrive your headlights. Your headlights only let you see about 350 feet ahead. Be sure you are driving slow enough to stop or turn if needed.
• Use your low beams when you come within 500 feet (about one block) of an oncoming vehicle. Also use your low beams when following another vehicle within 300 feet.
• Slow down when nearing a curve if you are driving the maximum posted speed limit.
• Use the edgeline as a guide. If there is no edgeline, use the center line to guide you.
• Stay awake and alert. Do not drive if you feel tired.
• Watch carefully for highway signs as they are harder to see at night.
• Watch carefully for people and vehicles stopped on the side of the road.
Remember, your goal when night driving is to “Arrive Alive.”

Missouri given “F” grade for driving safety

Have you heard Missouri is considered one of the worst states for road safety? That’s according to a recent report from the National Safety Commission.

Missouri received a grade of an “F” for road safety, which was one of nine states to receive the lowest grade. Overall the state was ranked 49th. The grades were based on each state’s statistics related to failure to wear seatbelts, distracted driving incidents, speeding tickets, and alcohol-impaired driving (DWI’s).

Partly resulting in such a low grade is Missouri’s seatbelt and texting laws. In Missouri, a driver cannot be pulled over just for not wearing a seatbelt. There must be a secondary offense observed, such as speeding, following too close, erratic driving, invalid license, etc. Therefore, many drivers are not buckled up and pay the price in injuries or even death. As to texting, only drivers under age 21 and commercial drivers can be ticketed for texting and driving. Those 21 and over will not be ticketed. This has led to many accidents among the 21 year and older group.

November and December months are considered the most dangerous driving months because of the increased number of deaths usually recorded. You can expect the state highway patrol to have extra law enforcement out on the roads during these months. Remember to buckle up, use designated drivers or ride services if drinking, and to drive safely this holiday season.