7/3/2014Idaho Court Criminalizes Sleeping It Off
Idaho Appeals Court convicts man of obstruction for sleeping under the influence and refusing to take field sobriety tests.
States around the nation are sending the message that it is better to attempt to drive home drunk than to sleep it off in a parking lot. The Idaho Court of Appeals on Monday added the state to the list with a ruling condemning Arlyn V. Orr for refusing to say the alphabet backwards and stand on one leg after Madison County Sheriff's Deputy Shawn Scott roused him from a deep sleep in a public parking lot at 12:20am on March 11, 2011.
Deputy Scott banged on the car window several times before opening the car door to shake Orr and make him wake up. Orr smelled of alcohol, had bloodshot eyes and "exhibited poor judgment," but he would not get out of the car on the chilly 33 degree night to perform field sobriety tests. So a second officer arrived and blasted Orr with pepper spray so he could be placed under arrest.
Orr was found guilty of obstructing the officers and driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). Orr appealed, arguing that he had a constitutional right to refuse to perform the field sobriety tests. The three-judge appellate panel disagreed, setting a high bar for Orr of having to prove that the deputy's warrantless search of his car was illegal.
"Because an unlawful act is not considered a 'duty' under the statute, an individual may peacefully obstruct or refuse to obey an officer's unlawful act without violating the statute," Chief Judge Sergio A. Gutierrez wrote for the court. "An individual may not, however, use force or violence to resist."
The court cited the 2008 Appeals Court decision Idaho v. Buell which held that an individual accused of driving drunk has no right to refuse to perform field sobriety tests.
"Deputy Scott possessed the requisite reasonable suspicion to investigate Orr for driving under the influence," Judge Gutierrez wrote. "It therefore follows that the officer's attempt to administer field sobriety tests (and order Orr out of the vehicle to do so) was a permissible component of his investigation -- and thus was a lawful act that may comprise the basis of a resisting and obstructing charge."
Orr had argued that the legislature gives a non-criminal penalty for refusing to take a breathalyzer test, so it would make no sense to turn refusal to take a field sobriety test into a more severe criminal offense. The three-judge panel concluded there was no case law supporting this position and upheld Orr's conviction.
Field sobriety tests are inherently subjective, as a driver may "pass" the test and still be convicted of DUI, as the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled in February (view ruling).
A copy of the decision is available in a 50k PDF file at the source link below.