SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – California sheriff’s deputies accused of running “dirty DUI” stings did not violate a drunk driver’s Fourth Amendment rights, a federal judge ruled.
Lane Bauldry filed a lawsuit in 2013, accusing a private investigator and two Contra Costa County sheriff’s deputies of conspiring to bust him in a so-called dirty DUI to help his now ex-wife prevail in divorce proceedings.
The private investigator, Chris Butler, pleaded guilty in May 2012 to seven felony charges, including conspiracy and illegal wiretapping, and admitted that he worked with sheriff’s Officer Stephen Tanabe to stage multiple DUI arrests on behalf of Butler’s clients.
Tanabe was convicted in February 2014 of six felony charges of fraud, extortion and conspiracy. He was sentenced to 15 months in prison.
Bauldry claimed that his estranged wife hired Butler to set up a sting in which women would ply Bauldry with alcohol, then ask him to give them a ride somewhere, so officers who had been lying in wait could pull him over and arrest him.
Tanabe claimed that he saw Bauldry drink four or five alcoholic beverages with two women at a bar in Danville in November 2010, and called sheriff’s Officer Tom Henderson to tell him that that an intoxicated driver would be out on the road.
Henderson said he spotted Bauldry’s car – which his radar gun indicated was going 35 mph in a 25 mph zone – and pulled him over.
Bauldry denies that he was speeding that night.
Sheriff’s Officer Robert Durrer – who is not a defendant – noted that Bauldry had several signs of intoxication, including bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and the smell of alcohol.
Bauldry performed poorly on field sobriety tests, prompting Durrer to arrest him for driving under the influence. Two breath tests administered at the police department showed Bauldry’s blood alcohol level at 0.13 percent, well over the legal limit.
U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer found on Thursday that Henderson did not violate Bauldry’s rights by stopping his car because the officer had reasonable suspicion, based on Tanabe’s tip, that Bauldry was driving while drunk.
“The content of the information Tanabe provided was certainly detailed enough to support a police officer’s belief that a crime was occurring,” Breyer wrote. “Tanabe told Henderson that Bauldry was intoxicated, he accurately identified Bauldry’s vehicle and its location, and he told Henderson when the vehicle was leaving the bar.”
Henderson had worked with Tanabe and found him to be reliable, so he had reason to believe that his observations were credible, Breyer said. Tanabe’s tip also was corroborated when Henderson saw Bauldry’s car near to the time and place that Tanabe provided, Breyer said.
“Tanabe’s tip therefore created reasonable suspicion that Bauldry was engaged in criminal activity, and the stop was warranted.”
Henderson was not required to witness all of the relevant facts with his own eyes, Breyer added.
“(I)t does not follow that Henderson must have seen Bauldry drink to excess, get into his car, and swerve all over the road in order to stop him. The relevant crime – driving under the influence – occurred in Henderson’s presence because Henderson saw Bauldry’s car moving,” Breyer said.
After the legal stop, there was probable cause to arrest Bauldry.
“Bauldry cannot dispute that, once contacted by Durrer, he conceded that he had consumed alcohol, agreed to undergo field sobriety and breathalyzer tests, and performed poorly on those tests. These facts and circumstances were sufficient to warrant a prudent person to believe that Bauldry was committing the offense of drunk driving,” Breyer ruled.
Because the stop and arrest were legal, Tanabe did not violate Bauldry’s Fourth Amendment rights. And since Bauldry’s related conspiracy claim is explicitly premised on a violation of the Fourth Amendment, it also fails.
Breyer issued a similar judgment in April in a case against Tanabe from two other alleged victims of the dirty DUI scheme . In that case, Breyer found that the stings were “repugnant to the American system of justice,” but not unconstitutional.
In March, the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Department settled a lawsuit with former reserve deputy William Howard, who accused the department of ostracizing, demoting and firing him after he told his superiors that Tanabe coordinated a sting to set up a winery owner for a DUI arrest.
Attorneys for the parties did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday.
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