A state District Court judge recently agreed with a lower court in tossing evidence against an allegedly drunk driver arrested in Baton Rouge due to the improper conduct of a sobriety checkpoint, The Advocate reported. The court determined that the Baton Rouge Police Department violated guidelines established by the Louisiana Supreme Court for the proper implementation and conduct of checkpoints created to ensure compliance with the state and federal constitutions. The ruling carried wide implications as the procedural defect impacted not just one, but several drivers, arrested by the Baton Rouge police.
The ruling stems from a case involving Brian Parks, a driver whom Baton Rouge police arrested for DWI in Dec. 2010. Parks was driving through Baton Rouge when he encountered a sobriety checkpoint near the 100 block of Government Street. Parks’ attorney asserted that the way police carried out the sobriety checkpoint that ensnared the driver violated Louisiana law regarding the proper procedure for conducting DWI checkpoints.
- Read more about Louisiana’s DWI law.
In 2000, the state Supreme Court ruled that DWI checkpoints do not necessarily violate the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition of unreasonable searches and seizures, provided that law enforcement follow certain guidelines that the court laid out. These guidelines, among other things, require law enforcement to establish, in writing, several parameters regarding the checkpoint, including its location, time and duration. Supervisors or administrative personnel must carry out the task of establishing these parameters; it cannot be done by the officers in the field who directly conduct the checkpoint.
In Parks’ case, the legality of his checkpoint focused on Baton Rouge Police Sgt. Cory Reach. Reach was responsible for carrying out the supervisory establishment tasks of the Government Street checkpoint, but Reach also performed the duties of a field officer in carrying out that checkpoint, according to Parks’ attorney. That meant that the checkpoint violated the guidelines and the evidence against Parks procured as a result of the checkpoint should be suppressed, the driver’s attorney maintained. Judge Alexander agreed, as did District Court Judge Don Johnson in denying the City of Baton Rouge’s appeal of Alexander’s ruling.
The Baton Rouge City Prosecutor announced her intention to appeal the ruling to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal. The ruling, if allowed to stand, would have a wide-ranging impact beyond just Parks’ case, as the ruling could result in the invalidation of essential evidence in numerous other DWI cases. Parks’ attorney stated that he had filed several other motions to suppress evidence obtained in sobriety checkpoints carried out by Baton Rouge police on behalf of several other clients.
Louisiana law contains several important safeguards to ensure that, even in pursuit of the laudable goal of keeping the state safe by removing drunk drivers from roadways, law enforcement officers follow the proper procedural rules to ensure that Louisiana drivers are not subject to sobriety checkpoints that violate our basic constitutional freedoms. If you’ve been arrested as a result of a sobriety checkpoint, it is important that you retain knowledgeable Louisiana counsel right away. Your attorney can help you obtain facts and information and determine if the specific manner of your arrest complied with the law and, if not, what options you may have. For advice and representation about your DWI/DUI arrest, contact the Louisiana DWI/DUI attorneys at the Cardone Law Firm. We have experience and skill to assist you in defending your rights.
For your confidential consultation contact us online or phone Cardone at 504-522-3333.