LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas law does not prohibit a law officer from transporting a person suspected of drunken driving outside of the officer's jurisdictional territory for a blood-alcohol test, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas law does not prohibit a law officer from transporting a person suspected of drunken driving outside of the officer’s jurisdictional territory for a blood-alcohol test, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
The high court rejected arguments by Mackenzie Pickering that a Pope County sheriff’s deputy illegally transported him to Yell County for a blood-alcohol test. The court noted that the case involved an issue of first impression, meaning the issue had never before been decided in Arkansas.
Pickering was 19 when he was stopped by Pope County Deputy Shawn Harris on Aug. 8, 2010. After Pickering failed a series a field sobriety tests, Harris placed Pickering under arrest and transported him to the Dardanelle Police Department in Yell County, where Pickering agreed to a blood-alcohol test.
The test showed Pickering had a blood-alcohol level of 0.065, exceeding the legal limit for minors of 0.02.
Pickering was later convicted of underage driving under the influence. In May 2011, Pickering filed a motion for suppression of the blood-alcohol test results, arguing that Harris illegally transported him out of Harris’ jurisdiction.
The state argued that no Arkansas law prohibits a law officer from transporting a lawfully arrested person outside the officer’s territorial jurisdiction to obtain evidence. The state also maintained that Pickering waived any objection by consenting to the test.
Pickering acknowledged that he consented to the test but said he never consented to be taken across county lines — something he argued there was no urgent need to do.
At a hearing in July, Harris explained that he transported Harris to the Dardanelle Police Department because he had not yet been certified to use the blood-alcohol content analysis machines that recently had been installed at the Pope County Sheriff’s Office and the Russellville Police Department, and no other officer was available to operate them.
Pope County Circuit Judge William Pearson denied Pickering’s motion for suppression, and Pickering appealed.
Pickering cited several court rulings from other states to support his arguments, including Rhode Island v. Marran, in which the Rhode Island Superior Court ruled that results of a blood-alcohol test should be suppressed because they were the product of an unlawful detention outside of a law enforcement agency’s jurisdiction.
In its unanimous opinion Thursday, the Arkansas Supreme Court said the rulings Pickering cited had only limited applicability to his case. Regarding Rhode Island v. Marran, the court pointed out that the Rhode Island Supreme Court said in a later case, Rhode Island v. Hagan, that it would not follow the lower court’s reasoning in Marran.
In Hagan, the Rhode Island Supreme Court said an officer’s actions in transporting a suspect out of his jurisdiction for a blood-alcohol test were reasonable and lawful, given that he acted in good faith and had obtained consent for the test and “in light of the urgency of obtaining blood-alcohol evidence before it is metabolized in the blood.”
“We decline to handcuff the state’s law enforcement officials in the performance of their legitimate duties,” the Rhode Island Supreme Court said in that ruling.
Justice Jim Gunter wrote in the Arkansas high court’s opinion Thursday, “We cite with approval the reasoning employed by the Rhode Island Supreme Court in Hagan and hold that Deputy Harris’ actions in the present case were both reasonable and lawful.”