Two judges: Police violating DWI checkpoints rules

A state district judge has let stand a City Court ruling that Baton Rouge Police Department violated the law when it had a police supervisor present and engaged in activities connected with its DWI checkpoints.

State District Judge Don Johnson on Jan. 31 denied an appeal by the city to a ruling in May by City Court Judge Yvette Alexander.

City Prosecutor Lisa Freeman said her office will appeal Johnson’s denial to the First Circuit Court of Appeal.

“We feel confident that our checkpoints are valid,” Freeman said.

Alexander, in her ruling last year, agreed to suppress evidence collected at a Dec. 17, 2010, checkpoint at the 100 block of Government Street that resulted in a DWI charge against Brian Parks.

“This is going to have implications for a lot of cases,” said Cliff Ivey, Parks’ attorney.

Ivey said he filed motions to suppress on similar grounds for his other clients charged in DWI checkpoints conducted by Baton Rouge police.

Johnson’s denial affects all of City Court, not just DWI cases in Alexander’s court.

The case hinges upon whether the Police Department properly separated the duties of supervisors and field officers in conducting DWI checkpoints.

According to guidelines laid out by the Louisiana Supreme Court in 2000, the location, time and duration of a checkpoint should be in writing and must be established by supervisory or other administrative personnel rather than the field officers implementing the checkpoint.

Ivey, a former police officer who is now a lawyer, said he was able to prove in court that supervisor Sgt. Cory Reach also was doing work that a field officer does.

In court filings, Freeman defended Reach, saying that he clearly was acting as a supervisor as required by the 2000 case.

The Louisiana Supreme Court first found DWI checkpoints unconstitutional in 1989. But in 2000, in the decision that included the guidelines at issue, the court reversed its 1989 decision.

The guidelines are meant to ensure that DWI checkpoints do not involve unreasonable search and seizures, which is protected by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Freeman said that her office is prepared to defend DWI checkpoint cases it brings in City Court if similar motions to suppress are filed, but hasn’t as yet done so.

Ivey said that all of his cases have been continued while the judges await “higher court guidance.”

“They don’t want to try them and then have to try them all again,” Ivey said.