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OWI 1st

My client Jim came to me for help.  After talking to him, the stop of the officer did not seem right. My client had come from the comedy club, where he had the mandatory “two drink minimum” to qualify him for the free show.  He and his girl friend left immediately after the show to stop for pizza, at a well know pizza parlor in an adjoining town.  As he came down the main street heading towards the pizza parlor, he found himself behind an “old man going about 20 miles per hour.”  Wanting to pass the “old man” but being patient- he did not.  He noticed in his rear view mirror that there were now at least three other cars behind him.  As the road crested, and after a few more blocks of travelling, a town police officer was behind my client with his lights on.  The officer told my client that he had been “tailgating” and that was the reason for the stop.  Jim was then asked, “Have you been drinking tonight?”  Jim answered truthfully, “Yes.”  He was ultimately arrested for OWI. I suggested to my client that we “challenge the stop.”At the motion hearing, before the Circuit Court Judge, after the prosecutor was done questioning the officer- it was my turn. The officer had been sitting on a side road, when the line of cars behind the old man, came by.  I asked the officer, “What color was my client’s car?”  He didn’t know!  I asked him what type of a car it was? He didn’t know!  All that he seemed to know was that “he believed” that the car in the position behind the old man (allegedly my client) was tailgating! In the next 20 minutes, the distance the officer answered that my client was “behind the old man” was 6” from the old man’s bumper- ( WOW)  then he changed his response to “6- 18” or thereabouts, and then when asked again, it changed again!  The Judge herself asked the officer “how close does the Statute say a car must be behind the other car, to be considered tailgating?”  The officer didn’t know- other than “too close.”  Ultimately, the Judge dismissed the OWI charge and the probable cause “tailgating ticket”- as they lacked a rational basis (by granting our motion to suppress the evidence).  HAD MY CLIENT NOT STOOD UP FOR HIS RIGHTS, HE WOULD HAVE HAD A DRUNK DRIVING CONVICTION ON HIS RECORD!

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