Barrington Police Chief John LaCross said Friday that he was very pleased with a Traffic Tribunal judge’s ruling on Wednesday, Aug. 29, that said a Barrington patrol officer’s stop of a suspected drunk driver without observing her vehicle did not violate her Constitutional and Fourth Amendment rights.
Traffice Tribunal Chief Magistrate William Guglietta found Layne Savage, a criminal defense lawyer, guilty of refusing a Breathalyzer test and having alcohol in her car.
She was stopped after police received a 911 tip and another complaint from someone who walked into the Barrington police station that her vehicle was operating erratically. Patrol Officer Timothy Oser, who made the stop in Barrington center, did not make a personal observation before pulling over her vehicle.
The case was seen as a test of a police officer’s ability to stop a suspected drunk driver with reasonable suspicion based on a tip. Savage’s vehicle was traveling south on March 10 on Route 114 when her vehicle was spotted by the two tipsters. Oser pulled her over near the intersection of County Road and Rumstick Road.
"Do we want an officer to wait for something to happen? The answer is simply no,” said Guglietta in a Providence Journal story.
LaCross agreed: “Do you want a drunk driver to take out an innocent family before being stopped immediately. You need to give officers that discretion.”
LaCross said that Judge Guglietta “did a great job citing case law. He reviewed over 30 cases. I’ve always thought that this should never be questioned.”
The police chief said officers should be able to pull over suspected drunk drivers based on tips from reliable witnesses.
“I’m confident that it (the judge’s ruling) will hold up on appeal,” LaCross said.
Not stopping suspected drunk drivers puts lives in jeopardy, he said. In this case, he said, "we might have saved a life."