When we met Adam, reading this report, we thought that Officer B. had every right to pull him over. Fortunately for Adam, though, we didn’t just take the officer’s word for it. We ordered the in-car video recording. Watching the video shows an entirely different story than the one presented in the report. In fact, Adam never left his lane. He moved slightly from side to side within his lane, but no differently than a normal person driving down the road. We promptly filed a motion in the trial court for the judge to throw out the charges against Adam, because the officer had no reason to pull him over in the first place.
The trial court judge, in District Court, ordered an evidentiary hearing to get to the truth. At the hearing, though, the officer agreed that he’d never seen Adam cross over the line, desite what he’d written in his report. He tried to point to a couple moments where he said that Adam’s tires had touched the dividing line. And then he came up with something new. The officer pointed out that there is a law that makes it a traffic violation to drive in the left lane when the right lane is free on a divided highway. He admitted that he hadn’t pulled Adam over for that charge, but argued that the stop was a legal one because of it.
Unfortunately for Adam, the trial court judge bought that story. Fortunately for Adam, justice didn’t stop there.
We filed an appeal for Adam, asking the Circuit Court to review the judge’s decision. The case was assigned, and a hearing was held this morning to determine whether the judge abused his discretion. I laid out the facts for this new judge and let her watch the video. The prosecutor argued that the violation of the other traffic law made the stop legal. I argued that it didn’t, because Officer B. had already admitted that he stopped the vehicle because of the alleged weaving and for no other reason.
The Judge took the time to really see what had happened, and to apply the law properly. She overturned the trial court’s decision and threw out the charges against Adam.
Now, I’m sure that many people reading this are thinking that this wasn’t justice. After Officer B. pulled over Adam, he discovered that Adam’s blood alcohol content was over the limit of .08. Without getting into the accuracy of breathalyzer machines, I’ll concede that it’s possible that Adam was intoxicated while he was driving. If he was drunk, how can I call it justice when a drunk driver has the charges against him dropped?
It’s justice, in my opinion, because Officer B. violated the rules set down by the Constitution when he pulled over Adam. The Constitution protects us all from illegal searches and seizures. When the Constitution is ignored by the police, Judges are charged with the responsibility of keeping them in line. When one Judge makes the wrong call, it takes courage for another Judge to review the decision and make the right call. This Judge had that courage today.
Why did Officer B. really pull over Adam on that night? It wasn’t because of his driving, because the video showed his driving was fine. We’ll never know what was in the officer’s heart that night. But we do know that, from now on, he’s been put on notice that violating Constitutional Rights and then lying about it in police reports will not lead to convictions.