Missouri Court: Arrest Was Illegal, But License Is Revoked

When Nicholas Coble was arrested for drunk driving following a March 2009 car accident, he denied that he had been drinking and refused to submit to a breath test. Under Missouri law, refusing the mandatory test means that the defendant’s driver’s license is automatically revoked. Coble challenged the license revocation in court on the grounds that his arrest was illegal, and a trial court agreed, reinstating his license. However, an appellate court recently reversed the lower court’s decision and re-revoked Coble’s driver’s license.

Coble’s trouble began in 2009, when he drove his car into a ditch on the side of the road after a day of fishing. According to police reports, officers could smell alcohol on Coble’s breath. He was arrested after he allegedly failed multiple field sobriety tests.

During his first trial against the Missouri Department of Revenue, Coble argued that he had been arrested in violation of a Missouri law requiring a DUI arrest to be made within 90 minutes of the violation. The state was unable to present evidence of the time of Coble’s car accident, and therefore could not prove that the arrest had occurred within the 90 minute period. The trial court agreed, ruling that the arrest was illegal, and that his license could therefore not be revoked.

The state appealed, arguing that Missouri law required only that the driver be arrested, and not that the arrest be a legal one. The appellate court agreed with the state, ruling that the law merely requires an arrest based on reasonable suspicion and a subsequent breath test refusal by the driver. Coble’s license was then re-revoked.

This has serious implications for any driver arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. Whether or not the arrest occurs legally, the driver must submit to a breath test or face revocation of their driver’s license. It will be interesting to see if this decision is overturned in the future. If you are involved in a situations similar to this, contact Monroe car accident lawyers.

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