The Richmond Register

Local News

June 8, 2013

Appeals court upholds ruling on car passenger’s alcohol-intoxication arrest

RICHMOND — The Kentucky Court of Appeals has upheld a ruling by a Madison Circuit Court judge that hinged on whether a person can be charged with alcohol intoxication in a public place if he or she is a passenger in a private vehicle.

The ruling is “to be published,” meaning it can be used as a precedent in other cases involving similar circumstances.

The case from 2011 involved the arrest of Elizabeth Grimes. Shortly after midnight April 24, 2011, Kentucky State Police Trooper Talbot Coyle pulled over a vehicle that was driving with no headlights, according to the ruling.

While Coyle attempted to question the driver, he reported that Grimes and another backseat passenger were arguing loudly. Coyle testified that he told them repeatedly to quiet down, but to no avail.

The driver was found to be operating the vehicle on a suspended license and placed under arrest.

“The officer testified at the hearing he did not intend to arrest Grimes and the other passenger for alcohol intoxication but they continued to be argumentative,” according to the ruling.

Coyle also said Grimes smelled of alcohol, had bloodshot eyes and slurred speech.

Grimes and the other passenger were charged with alcohol intoxication in a public place and taken to jail. However, when she was being booked, Grimes provided her sister’s name, address and social security number, the court documents stated.

Coyle discovered that Grimes had done the same thing when she was arrested in 2010 in Clark County and it occurred again in May 2011 when she was arrested in Lincoln County, according to the ruling.

A warrant also existed for Grimes’ arrest, but it mistakenly used her sister’s name.

Grimes was charged with felony identify theft and sentenced to three years in prison.

Prior to accepting a plea deal, Grimes entered a motion to have the statements she made after she was in custody thrown out as evidence because the officer lacked probable cause for a legal arrest on the alcohol intoxication charge.

A hearing on the matter was conducted, and Judge Jean C. Logue ruled Coyle did have probable cause to arrest Grimes for public intoxication.

“On appeal, Grimes contends the circuit court erred in denying her motion to suppress because she was riding in a private vehicle and, therefore, was not in ‘public’ as required by KRS 222.202(1),” the ruling stated. “Grimes also argued that she was not a danger to herself or others, as required by statute.”

The state appeals court reviewed the testimony from the evidence-suppression hearing and upheld Logue’s ruling.

While the statute covering alcohol intoxication arrests does not specifically state that a private vehicle constitutes a public place, the law does state “an act is deemed to occur in a public place if it produces its offensive or proscribed consequences in a public place.”

The appeals court said Grimes was not “merely a passenger who sat quietly while Officer Coyle questioned the driver,” but instead her argumentative behavior interfered with a valid traffic stop on a highway, which is a public place.

“Officer Coyle, based on his eleven years of experience, determined that it would be unsafe to leave Grimes on the side of the road in an intoxicated condition,” the appeals court ruled. “Given the circumstances, there was probable cause to arrest Grimes for alcohol intoxication in a public place.”

Grimes can request that the Kentucky Supreme Court review the appeals’ court decision.

Sarah Hogsed can be reached at shogsed@richmondregister.com or 624-6694.

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