Tuesday, November 15, 2011

When a California DUI Judge wants to get rid of a headache, the motion to suppress/dismiss may be a reasonable hat to hang his hat on, lawyers say

The DUI case against freelance specialty writer Peter Lance on Tuesday was dismissed, ruling that Lance’s delay at a green light didn’t provide enough legal basis for a police officer to pull him over.

Lance no longer must defend California DUI charges arising out of a 1/1/11 arrest.

He wrote a series of controversial articles for the Santa Barbara News-Press about his arrest and investigation into the credibility of arresting officer Kasi Beutel.

Lance claimed his signature, and those of other DUI defendants, was forged on police report documents, relinquishing his right to have blood samples taken that could be retested later. The Santa Barbara Police Department has denied the allegations and has a 90-day hold for original documents, witnesses and familiar attorneys have indicated.

During the pre-trial DUI hearings in court, discussions focused on whether authorities had knowingly destroyed Lance’s original Trombetta waiver and whether Beutel had acted appropriately.

In dismissing the DUI case based on contributions by prominent DUI defense lawyers and minds, His Honor “did not find there was any misconduct on the part of any of the involved officers, including officer Kasi Beutel or any member of the District Attorney’s Office” and found officer Bruno Peterson’s decision to stop Lance’s car was “not unreasonable.”

Lance, who said he had been drinking champagne earlier in the evening, was stopped at a green light, with his head looking downward toward his lap for 3 to 5 seconds, which prompted the officer to pull him over.

The DUI case spurred a discussion into the Police Department’s lack of patrol vehicle video cameras, and a grand jury report urged the department to implement them.

The Santa Barbara City Council put off outfitting its police fleet with cameras until the next budget cycle, but one manufacturer offered a trial use of its cameras in a handful of cars. That would help with truth in DUI cases.