Could a Court of Appeals decision impact public safety?

Police officers must keep the public safe, but they must balance that with ensuring that they are adhering to laws protecting privacy and rights of everyone. Many people forget that even people who face accusations of doing criminal acts have specific rights afforded to them. Finding that balance is sometimes tricky.

A recent ruling by the Arizona Court of Appeals might make it a bit complex for these officers. The gist of the decision is that a person can’t be suspected of drunk driving simply because they drive slowly away from an area near a bar.

The case at the center of the appeal

In 2017, an officer witnessed a man leaving a parking lot adjacent to a bar’s parking lot. It was a known area where bar patrons park so they can avoid looking suspicious when they leave. The officer, a member of the DUI task force, followed the man for two miles. The man was driving under the speed limit by around 10 miles per hour.

The officer stopped the man, but the stop was thrown out in the Mesa Municipal Court. The cop noted that driving slowly is one of the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration markers for impaired driving. The Maricopa County Superior Court overturned the lower court’s decision after an appeal. The case ultimately landed in the hands of three judges who sit on the Court of Appeals.

The judges on the appeals court found that there wasn’t any factual basis for the cop to stop the vehicle. It noted that the officer had nothing more than a hunch that something was amiss and that he didn’t have reasonable suspicion. The panel overturned the Superior Court’s decision.

Potential impact on public safety

The decision of the appeals court to overturn that decision is understandable from a legal standpoint. It is also plausible to think that this case might impact public safety.

Some may conclude that patrolmen might not stop drivers as often due to this ruling. Could this have an impact on whether to stop suspected drunk drivers or allow them to go on their way? It just might, and that could have a negative impact on public safety.

The victim of a drunk driving crash is likely going to feel angry because the accident could have been avoided. These wrecks can lead to costly damages, including medical bills and missed wages, for victims. As a result, some opt to pursue compensation in an attempt to recover the financial impact on the incident.

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