Portsmouth DUI Charge Dismissed Prior to Trial

In March of 2012, our Client was stopped by the Portsmouth Police Department and charged with drunk driving. He submitted to the chemical test at the station and had readings over twice the legal limit. Attorney Humphrey raised legal arguments in the case regarding unlawful stop and lack of jurisdiction.

Under current Rhode Island law, local police officers are limited to the jurisdictional boundaries of their town or city. Local police officers are permitted to cross jurisdictional boundaries and travel into another Town/City for two (2) reasons, "hot/close pursuit" and emergency police powers.

Pursuant to R.I.G.L. 12-7-19 close pursuit is defined as:

Arrest after close pursuit by officers from cities or town. - Any member of a duly organized municipal peace unit of another city or town of the state who enters any city or town in close pursuit and continues within any city or town in such close pursuit of a person in order to arrest him or her on the grounds that he or she has violated the motor vehicle code in the other city or town shall have the same authority to arrest and hold in custody the person as members of a duly organized municipal peace unit of any city or town have to arrest and hold in custody a person on the grounds that he or she has violated the motor vehicle code in any city or town. (emphasis added)

The intent of the close pursuit statute was upheld in the case of State v. Kinder, 769 A.2d 614 (R.I. 2001). In Kinder, the Rhode Island Supreme Court held the following:

Based on the totality of the circumstances, town police officer has probable cause to arrest Defendant within town and to charge him with reckless driving, and thus, officer has authority to closely pursue Defendant into nearby city to make that same arrest, under statute authorizing out-of-jurisdiction arrest after close pursuit, where officer observed 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. Id. at 615.

Pursuant to R.I.G.L. 45-42-1, emergency police powers is defined as:

(a) 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 as 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.

(b) Law enforcement officers from out-of-state shall have limited emergency police powers to transport, guard and maintain custody of any person who is arrested out of state, but transported to a Rhode Island medical facility for emergency medical treatment. Prior to entry into Rhode Island, the out-of-state police department maintaining custody of said arrested person shall notify the Rhode Island state police of the transport and the site of the emergency medical treatment. The emergency police powers granted shall cease immediately upon the expiration of eight (8) hours from the time of notification, or upon a fugitive-from-justice warrant being executed, whichever shall arise first.

The emergency police powers exception is often used in cases involving serious traffic accidents where multiple police officers respond to the emergency.

The Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal in its decision of Jamestown v. White (RITT Appeals Panel, February of 2009) discussed the two jurisdictional exceptions. The Appeals Panel held the refusal charge could not be sustained because the arresting officer made an extraterritorial stop/arrest based solely on traffic violations. In the "absence of a statutory or judicially recognized exception, the authority of a local police department is limited to its own jurisdiction." Id. at 833 (citing Page v. Staples, 13 R.I. 306 (1881)). The Appeals Panel reasoned neither of the two exceptions, "hot pursuit" or emergency police power applied in this situation to justify an extraterritorial stop/arrest.

Immediately prior to trial, the Judge granted our Motion to Dismiss Due to Lack of Jurisdiction. Our Client never sustained a criminal conviction and never lost his license. His case is immediately eligible for expungement.

If you or a family member have been charged with drunk driving, refusal to submit to a chemical test, or other alcohol offenses, please allow Attorney Robert H. Humphrey's reputation, experience and skill to successfully guide you through the legal process. Please contact Robert H. Humphrey, Esq., at 401-816-5862 or e-mail him at

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