On July 28th, 2012 in James City, Virginia Michael Brandon Coates was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving. According to the Virginia Gazette, Mr. Coates’ arrest was initiated by a private citizen. A good Samaritan was driving when he observed Mr. Coates driving erratically. The driver then observed the suspect veer off the road and hit two mailboxes without stopping, the suspect continued to drive.
Meanwhile, the observant citizen followed the driver and called police. At some point the suspect stopped his vehicle at an intersection. It was at this point the caller got out of their vehicle, walked up to the suspect’s car and removed his keys from the ignition.
Police arrived on the scene and arrested the suspected driver. He has been charged with two misdemeanor charges of leaving the scene of an accident, two counts of damaging property, and DUI. Reports indicate that the arrest was a direct result of the citizen’s actions.
Anyone facing drunk driving charges should seek appropriate advice to navigate the legal process and present a meaningful defense to achieve optimal results.
This arrest certainly is different from a typical case. Typically an officer observes erratic driving, makes the stop and then performs field sobriety tests, etc. in the search for evidence. When a case takes a different course, there may be opportunities for the police to error in collecting evidence.
For example under Virginia DWI law a breath test is only valid if a person is arrested within 3 hours of the time they stopped driving. If police arrive on scene and a driver is out of the car they may not be able to determine when the individual stopped driving.
Also, under Virginia DWI law the police must prove a person did not consume alcohol after they stopped driving. Again, in a typical DWI case this isn’t an issue. The cop sees a suspect drives, stops the car and there is no time for the suspect to drink. However, where the cop doesn’t witness the driving behavior they must prove there was no alcohol drunk in other ways. Most of the time when an officer doesn’t observe drinking are proven by the suspect’s own statements. Many times if a Defendant exercises their right to remain silent the police won’t be able to prove a DWI.
Anytime a DWI arrest involves an accident or any other circumstance where the police don’t see driving behavior significant legal issues comes into play.