Last week, a Santa Monica man was awarded a $70,000 judgment from the City of Santa Monica for being wrongfully arrested during a traffic stop. The man's case became a viral sensation after he posted an audio recording of the interaction between himself and the law enforcement officer on YouTube. The recording was a deciding factor in his case.
The man involved in this case - S. Devermont - happened to be the creator of a smartphone app that posts information about local checkpoints in Los Angeles and Southern California. Because of this, he knew quite a bit about California DUI laws and protocol for DUI stops. On the day he was pulled over for making an illegal right turn, he put this knowledge to use and turned on his cell phone to record the interaction between himself and the officer.
During the traffic stop, the officer became suspicious that Devermont may have been drinking. Devermont politely refused to take the field sobriety tests - which California drivers have the right to do. Rather than accept Devermont's invocation of his legal right, the officer was aggressively antagonistic and informed Devermont that he had to take the field sobriety tests or he would have no other choice than to arrest him.
Ultimately, Devermont was arrested under suspicion of DUI and was kept overnight in jail. His blood test showed he had not consumed any alcohol. After filing his case, a judge determined that the audio recording proved that Devermont was not "slurring" or "antagonistic" as the officer claimed, and that the officer did not have reasonable suspicion to arrest him. The lawsuit - filed three years ago - was finally resolved last month.
DUI Stops & Your Rights
This story serves to remind California motorists that you do have rights when stopped under suspicion of driving under the influence. Remember, while you can refuse to take field sobriety tests, you can still be arrested if there is probable cause to suspect you are under the influence and you must take a chemical test or risk an automatic driver's license suspension.
At Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP, our DUI defense attorneys in Los Angeles have fought for many clients charged with driving under the influence. We have also worked with clients who have had their rights violated by a law enforcement officer. If you have questions about these issues, contact our legal team today for a free and confidential case evaluation.