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More Suspicious DUI Behaviors: Acne, Good Posture

Posted by Kevin Trombold DUI Defense Attorney | May 06, 2014 | 0 Comments

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DUI Officers Stop Out Of State Driver With Acne
We all know, a law enforcement officer must have probable cause in order to make a traffic stop. Sadly, some officers tend to stretch the boundaries of what can realistically be called "probable cause." To make matters worse, sometimes the courts agree with them.

That's what happened in New Mexico in April of 2012. According to reports, Border Patrol Joshua Semmerling agent passed a pickup truck going in the opposite direction on a remote stretch of road. The agent made a U-Turn and pulled over the truck's female driver on suspicion of smuggling either drugs or illegal immigrants because he said she:

  • Had "stiff" posture, with hands at "ten and two" on the wheel (isn't that what we're all taught to do?)
  • Was driving at 7:45pm, which was "suspicious"
  • Was driving a vehicle with tinted windowsHad an out-of-state license plate (which was only visible on the back of the truck, because there was no front plate. Meaning that the officer had to turn and look behind him at 60 miles per hour to see the out-of-state plate. Try doing that yourself. Or better, yet, don't - you could get into an accident)

When Semmerling pulled over Cindy Lee Westhoven, he noted that she had acne - which in his mind made him think that she was a methamphetamine addict. Evidently, that's a symptom of meth abuse.

Officer Semmerling ran her license which came up without any warrants, but still detained Westhoven. He asked to search the vehicle, but the woman refused. So he brought in a drug-sniffing dog, who subsequently found marijuana in the truck.

Here's the worst part: after Westhoven appealed her case, the Tenth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals unanimously sided with the agent, saying, "Driving stiffly, having tinted windows, slowing down when seeing law enforcement, and driving in an out-of-the-way area may be innocent conduct by themselves. But when taken together along with driving a vehicle with out-of-state plates… we conclude Agent Semmerling had reasonable suspicion Ms. Westhoven was involved in smuggling activity."

So how are innocent motorists supposed to react to this ruling? Don't drive near the border in another state? Don't drive at 7:45pm? Don't keep your hands at 10 and 2? Untint your windows? Don't drive with acne?

About the Author

Kevin Trombold DUI Defense Attorney

Highly rated by former clients, who praise his warm, knowledgeable courtside manner and his fierce determination to reduce or eliminate charges. An accomplished speaker, author, and leader in DUI defense statewide Kevin is well respected by judges, prosecutors, and other attorneys across the State of Washington for his expertise, integrity, and knowledge in the complicated forensic science area of impaired driving allegations.

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