WWE wrestler Alex Riley was arrested for driving under the influence in Tampa last November. He was also charged with driving with a suspended license. He refused to submit to a breath test to determine his blood alcohol level.
Riley was taken to jail in Hillsborough County and released on $500 bond, fairly typical for a first-time DUI arrest without injury or accident.
Fast forward about seven months and Riley’s defense attorneys asked a Hillsborough judge to dismiss the charges. They argued that police had no probable cause for a traffic stop when they pulled Riley over. The judge agreed. If the traffic stop was not lawful, then the resulting field sobriety test and any observations the officer made of Riley (the odor of alcohol, his speech, his appearance, etc.) are inadmissible as evidence at trial.
Without that evidence to present at trial, the State has no case and the charges must be dismissed.
A quick explanation of the reason behind this ruling: Evidence obtained in violation of a defendant’s Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures is inadmissible in court under the exclusionary rule.
Under the Fourth Amendment, a seizure / arrest should not occur without a finding of probable cause. In order to have probable cause, the officer must have a well-founded belief that the suspect has committed or is committing a crime. That belief must be objectively reasonable to an average observer in light of all facts known to the officer at the time of arrest (or, in this case, traffic stop). The officer does not have to be certain but there must be a sufficient likelihood that he or she is correct.
If the officer never had the legal right to stop / seize / arrest the suspect, he or she never would have discovered the alleged evidence of a crime. Therefore, the court will exclude that evidence rather than reward the officer’s violation of the suspect’s constitutional rights.