Motorist Settles Lawsuit Against City Involving Arrest for Alleged DWI

Unsplash [Public domain, CC0 1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en)], via PixabayAn individual who has made a name for himself publicizing the locations of police checkpoints in Southern California recently settled a wrongful arrest lawsuit against a California city. A police officer arrested him for alleged DWI, he claimed in his lawsuit, after he refused to submit to a field sobriety test. He maintained that he was not impaired, and that the officer had no probable cause to suspect that he was. While we as DWI attorneys would not necessarily encourage anyone to make a spectacle out of their assertion of their constitutional rights, this lawsuit demonstrates how police can infringe on the the rights of drivers during traffic stops, which can lead to dismissal of charges.

The plaintiff, using the name “Mr. Checkpoint,” operates a website that publishes the locations of police checkpoints, where officers stop vehicles at random to check for DWI. He makes this information available to people on the website, via the social media service Twitter, and through text message subscriptions. The practice is reportedly not popular with some law enforcement agencies, but L.A. Weekly noted in 2013 that making this information easily accessible encourages people who might otherwise drink and drive “to think about either staying home to party, finding a designated driver or calling a cab.”

The traffic stop that led to the lawsuit occurred in late 2011. He was pulled over in Santa Monica for allegedly making an illegal right turn. He recorded audio of this incident on his phone. The officer arrested him for DWI when he refused to perform a field sobriety test. He spent the night in jail, his car was impounded, and his dogs, who were in the backseat, were taken to the pound. He was able to retrieve the car and his dogs, and the prosecutors declined to file charges when blood test results showed no alcohol.

In August 2012, the plaintiff filed suit against the City of Santa Monica, the chief of police, and the arresting officer. He claimed various civil rights violations, including false arrest, excessive force, and retaliation for exercising his First Amendment rights. The district court denied the defendants’ motion for summary judgment on those claims in July 2014. It found that a substantial dispute existed as to whether the officer had probable cause to make an arrest for DWI. The officer’s only reasons for believing the plaintiff was intoxicated, the court found, were the alleged right turn, his failure to pull over as soon as he activated his police lights, and not knowing what time it was. The recording of the encounter was instrumental in the court’s findings. In February 2015, the city paid $70,000 to settle the lawsuit.

If you have been arrested or charged with DWI, a knowledgeable and skilled DWI lawyer can help you understand your rights and prepare your defense. We have dedicated 100% of our law practice at Levow & Associates to defending New Jersey DWI cases, and we are available to help you 24/7. To schedule a free and confidential consultation to see how we can assist you, contact us online or at (877) 975-3399.

More Blog Posts:

Field Sobriety Tests in New Jersey DWI Stops, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, February 14, 2015

“Distracted Driving” Laws in New Jersey Cover More than Just Cell Phones, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, February 3, 2015

Driver Successfully Fights DWI by Citing First Amendment, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, October 30, 2014

Photo credit: Unsplash [Public domain, CC0 1.0], via Pixabay.