Archive for May 12th, 2006

Driving After Midnight = Probable Cause to Stop for DUI

Friday, May 12th, 2006

The only thing unusual about the following news story is that this officer was truthful about a common practice most other officers deny:


Officer Testifies Everyone a DUI Suspect After Midnight

Minot, ND. May 11 –  Be aware that if you're driving around after midnight you are­ a drunk driving suspect, apparently in the eyes of at least one law enforcement officer ­.

Highway Patrol Trooper Ryan Hoffner testified in Northwest District Court in Minot April 21 that "It is assumed that everyone on the road after midnight is a suspect for driving under the influence." The statistics, he claims, bear that out…

According to court records, in the early morning hours of Nov. 13, 2005, Darren Lee Bachmeier was stopped by Hoffner on North Dakota Highway 28 between Carpio and Berthold…

Bachmeier denied any erratic driving. His passengers likewise stated they did not observe any erratic driving by Bachmeier, according to the hearing record.

"Hoffner testified that he had not observed any violations, but apparently acting upon his assumption that everyone on the road is a suspect, left U.S. Highway 52, and began to pursue the observed vehicle on Highway 28," the record said.

Hoffner testified he pushed his patrol vehicle to at least 80 mph in order to close the distance between his vehicle and the vehicle he was pursuing. The speed limit on Highway 28 is 65 mph, the document pointed out.

Bachmeier argued that Hoffner had to be traveling well in excess of the speed limit to close the distance as rapidly as he did. Bachmeier asserts Hoffner had to exceed speeds of 100 mph in order to close the distance…

(Judge Gary) Lee wrote, "Officer Hoffner freely admits that he had seen nothing to raise any suspicion that the Bachmeier pickup had violated any laws. He had no reason to believe that Bachmeier was a violator. His only reason to suspect Bachmeier was his assumption that anyone on the road after midnight is suspected of driving under the influence."

Lee also had some harsh words for the state during the hearing.

"Almost as incredible to the court is the state's reply to those actions. The state's reply is simply, 'so what.' Apparently, the state's position is that it is entirely justifiable for law enforcement to ignore the laws, violate the laws, potentially endanger life and property of others through high speed late night vehicle chases, so long as in the end an arrest is made."

"The state's attorney is responsible for the enforcement of all law. Turning a blind eye to violations of law, especially when committed by trained law enforcement officers, seems to be in derogation of that duty," Lee wrote.


So, no probable cause to stop and the gutsy judge throws the case out, right? Wrong. The "DUI exception to the Constitution" kicked in:


He added, "All that being said, however, the question before the court is whether this conduct constitutes outrageous government conduct. In this case, it cannot be said that Hoffner's actions rise to the level of compelling due process to bar this prosecution."

"True, he drove at an excessive rate of speed on a rural stretch of highway, late at night. There was only one other car that he knew to be on the road. Had Hoffner actually seen any suspicious activity, or other traffic violations, his conduct would have been justifiable under (state law)."

"Nor does the state's apparent disregard for the law it is duty bound to enforce arise to the level of outrageous conduct."

Lee then denied Bachmeier's motion to suppress. "The matter will not be dismissed for outrageous governmental conduct," he ordered.

Bachmeier's case will now be scheduled for a jury trial. No trial date has yet been set.


The judge seems to have overlooked the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.


(Thanks to Jeanne M. Pruett.)

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