Unlawful Extraterritorial Arrest Results in Bristol DUI Dismissal

In December of 2010, our Client was stopped by the Bristol Police Department on the Portsmouth side of the Mount Hope Bridge. Our Client was charged with drunk driving ("DUI") and refusal to submit to a chemical test. In February of 2011, both charges were dismissed based on Attorney Humphrey's experience handling drunk driving cases and the law of extraterritorial arrests.

In its June 22, 2010 decision the Massachusetts Appeals Court in Commonwealth v. Limone reversed the Defendant's conviction for a fourth or subsequent drunk driving offense and held that "a police officer's power to make a warrantless arrest is generally limited to the boundaries of the jurisdiction in which the officer is employed, and, absent fresh pursuit for an arrestable offense, a police officer is generally without authority to make an arrest outside of his jurisdiction. Outside his jurisdictional boundaries, a police officer stands as a private citizen, and, if not in fresh and continued pursuit of a suspect, an arrest by him is valid only if a private citizen would be justified in making the arrest under the same circumstances. In this case the defendant was suspected only of a misdemeanor motor vehicle offense. It was subsequent investigation that disclosed the defendant had been convicted on at least six prior occasions of operating while under the influence of liquor. Thus, the seizure of the defendant was unlawful. The remedy for such an unlawful stop and arrest is exclusion of the evidence under the 'fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine.' In this case, since the only evidence would have not been obtained but for the unlawful stop and subsequent arrest the judgments are reversed, the verdicts are set aside and judgments are to be entered for the defendant."

The Limone decision is based in large part upon the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court's 1990 decision in Commonwealth v. LeBlanc in which the Court held that a police officer had no authority to make a warrantless arrest outside of his jurisdiction when the offense for which he pursued the motorist across the jurisdictional boundary was a non-arrestable traffic violation. In addition, the Court held that the police officer had no authority to pursue and stop a motorist over the boundary of the officer's jurisdiction in order to deliver a citation for a non-arrestable traffic violation.

In any drunk driving case a question may arise as to whether the arresting officer had authority to apprehend the suspected drunk driver in another jurisdiction. In Rhode Island the statutes controlling extraterritorial warrantless arrests are R.I.G.L. 12-7-19 (Arrest after close pursuit by officers from cities or towns) and R.I.G.L. 45-42-1 (Emergency police power). The close pursuit statute states that "any member of a municipal peace unit of another city or town of the state who enters any city or town in close pursuit, of a person in order to arrest him or her for a violation of the motor vehicle code in the other city or town and continues within any city or town in close pursuit, shall have the same authority to arrest and hold the person in custody as members of the municipal peace unit in any city or town." The intent of the close pursuit statute is to allow a police officer from one Rhode Island community to enter into another Rhode Island community if in close pursuit of a suspect for an arrestable offense. The intent of the statue was upheld in the 2001 decision of the Rhode Island Supreme Court in State v. Kinder. In Kinder, the Court held that "based on the totality of the circumstances, town police officer had probable cause to arrest defendant within town and to charge him with reckless driving, and thus, officer had authority to closely pursue defendant into nearby city to make the same arrest, under statute authorizing out-of-jurisdiction arrest after close pursuit, where officer observed the defendant driving 65 miles per hour (mph) in a 25 mph zone and move from traveling lane to passing lane without signaling, narrowly avoiding collision with another vehicle."

The emergency police powers statute states that "when the police chief of a city or town within the state or his or her designee requests emergency police assistance from another police department within the state, the officers responding to the request shall be subject to the authority of the requesting chief and have the same authority, powers, duties, privileges, and immunities of a duly appointed police officer of the city or town making the request, until the requesting chief of police discharges and releases the assisting police officers to their own departments." The intent of the emergency police powers statute was upheld in the case of State v. Ceraso, in which a Newport police officer was instructed by his superior officer to respond to a roll-over accident that had occurred on the Jamestown side of the Newport Bridge. Upon his arrival, the Newport police officer "observed a scene of absolute chaos." After setting up a roadblock, the Newport police officer observed a vehicle, driven by Mr. Ceraso, fail to obey his command to stop at the roadblock and the vehicle sped by him in an erratic manner. Subsequently, Mr. Ceraso was stopped by another Newport police officer and arrested for drunk driving. The Rhode Island Supreme Court in upholding the drunk driver's conviction held that the "officer was justified in stopping the vehicle pursuant to the emergency police power exception to the general rule that the authority of the local police department is limited to its own jurisdiction."

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