Man Passes Sobriety Tests, Still Faces DUI Charges - Eric Alvarez
Updated: Sunday, February 23 2014, 05:02 PM CST
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Supreme Court reinstated DUI charges against David Dwayne Bell, who saw his charges dropped after passing several sobriety tests in 2009.
A Sevier County sheriff's deputy stopped Bell, for driving on the wrong side of the road, but a county circuit court claimed the deputy did not have enough evidence to arrest bell after he passed the sobriety tests.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court reinstated the charges because Bell, "smelled of alcohol" and admitted to drinking, court records show.
"I don't think that's right,” Jeff Ard said. “If you've passed all the sobriety tests and you've been found sober by their own instruments, how are they to judge whose sober and who's not?"
“What's to stop [officers] from just pulling anybody off the street and saying, ‘well you passed everything but we're going to go ahead and charge you with something anyway,’” Chip Goetzinger said.
Franklin police sergeant Charlie Warner says DUI assessments aren't that cut and dry.
“If you have someone that has some good dexterity and enough skill to be able to complete some of these field sobriety tests that doesn't necessarily mean they're not impaired,” Warner said.
The opinion by justice William Koch Jr. says Bell's ability to pass the field sobriety tests did not, “sufficiently undermine the belief that he was driving under the influence.”
Nashville attorney Grover Collins does not represent Bell or the Supreme Court, but he is familiar with the ruling.
“By this decision they're not saying, ‘if you pass the field sobriety test, you should be arrested anyway,’ they're saying, ‘based on everything that was available to the officer at the time of the arrest, he had enough,’” Collins said.
Court documents say Bell's mental functioning was “excellent” during the 2009 sobriety test.
They also say Bell can argue his performance on the sobriety test could amount to reasonable doubt when fighting the DUI charge.
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