Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 1:00 PM on Wednesday, July 25, 2012

DUI charge dismissed for improper seizure

Staff Report

Homer District Court Judge Margaret Murphy earlier this month granted a motion by a Homer man to suppress and dismiss a driving under the influence charge.

Avraamy D. Reutov, 22, and his lawyer, Charles Tulin, argued that the DUI charge should be dropped because when Alaska State Trooper Woodruff contacted Reutov in April 2011, the trooper made an improper welfare check.

Woodruff had seen Reutov parked in a pullout on East End Road and approached the car. Woodruff alleged he smelled alcohol on Reutov and conducted field sobriety tests which Reutov failed. Reutov was arrested for DUI.

Prosecutors argued Woodruff's contact was permissible under a "community caretaking" exception to the Fourth Amendment, the right protecting citizens from unreasonable search and seizure.

Police officers can contact drivers when there is "a legitimate reason to be concerned for the welfare of a motorist," Murphy wrote. "Woodruff observed no actual indication of any problem and had received no request for assistance. The state failed to prove that he saw anything in particular to make him believe that the occupants of the vehicle needed assistance."

Woodruff also had parked his patrol car in such a way that Reutov might not have felt he was free to leave, Murphy noted.

"Seizure must be found when the challenged police conduct would lead a reasonable person to believe that the person was not free to leave," she wrote. "It is the state's burden to prove that the interaction between Woodruff and Reutov was permissible and not an unlawful seizure."

Murphy said the state did not prove this and thus granted Reutov's motion to suppress the evidence.