During the hearing to suppress, the arresting officer, who had training and experience on how to identify someone who was under the influence, testified that at around 7:22 p.m., he reported to the Azalea Lounge to investigate a potential vehicle accident.
When he arrived, he encountered the defendant standing outside of her legally parked vehicle, which was damaged. The officer determined that the damage to the vehicle was preexisting, but observed that the defendant was “extremely intoxicated.” He did not have a basis to arrest the defendant at that time, but warned her that if he saw her driving, she would be arrested for DUI. A friend of the defendants came out of the Azalea Lounge and said he would take charge of her, and the two went inside. In the interest of public safety, the officer parked his patrol car across the street in plain view. He observed the defendant walk toward her car on two occasions, but she turned around when she saw the officer's patrol car. The officer had to leave the area when he was dispatched to another call.
At 8:35 p.m., the officer returned to the area for the sole purpose of checking up on the defendant. As he approached, he saw the defendant's car pull onto the road. He looked in the car and saw that the defendant was driving, so he followed her briefly. The officer admitted that the defendant was obeying all traffic laws and was not driving erratically. He became concerned when it appeared that she was going to get on the interstate.
Knowing her condition, the officer testified that he did not want her on the interstate at those speeds, so he stopped her. The officer admitted that his stop was based on his previous contact with the defendant. He knew that it takes several hours for alcohol to get out of the bloodstream and stated, “There was no human way possible that she was no longer intoxicated.” Upon stopping the defendant, the officer observed that the defendant was still extremely intoxicated, had slurred speech, red and glassy eyes, and emitted a strong odor of alcohol. He asked her to perform field sobriety exercises, which she refused. He then placed her under arrest for DUI. The defendant refused to take a breath test. In a search incident to arrest, a baggy of cocaine and a straw were recovered from the defendant's pocket.
In her motion to suppress the evidence seized as a result of the traffic stop, she argued that the stop was illegal because she did not break any traffic laws and was not driving erratically. She further argued that the stop was unsupported by a founded suspicion of criminal activity, namely because the officer's observation of her intoxication during the first encounter was not corroborated by any field sobriety exercises. The trial court disagreed and denied the motion to suppress.
The officer who had training and experience on how to identify someone who was under the influence, and who observed that defendant was extremely intoxicated approximately one hour before he stopped vehicle defendant was driving, had founded suspicion that defendant was driving under the influence. The stop was justified although defendant was not driving erratically