52 RI Bar J., No. 5, Pg. 19 (March, 2004). Interjurisdiction Arrests - Revisited.

AuthorGuy R. Bissonnette, Esq.

Rhode Island Bar Journal

Volume 52.

52 RI Bar J., No. 5, Pg. 19 (March, 2004).

Interjurisdiction Arrests - Revisited

Interjurisdiction Arrests - RevisitedGuy R. Bissonnette, Esq.Guy R. Bissonnette is an Assistant Professor of Legal Studies at Johnson & Wales University and maintains a law office in Warwick.It was a clear, cool and dry day. At approximately 1:00 a.m. Officer Smith, on routine patrol in the town of Peaceville, Rhode Island was passed in the opposite direction by a vehicle clearly exceeding the posted speed limit. The officer quickly turned the cruiser around to give chase, while maintaining visual contact with the speeding vehicle. The officer activated the cruiser's lights and siren, and began to close the distance with the suspect vehicle as they approached the town line. The vehicle stopped in response to the lights and siren, but did so over the border in the town of Anywhere, Rhode Island. The officer approached the stopped vehicle, the driver lowered the driver's side window and the officer then had the opportunity to observe the driver. The officer noted: bloodshot and watery eyes; difficulty with and slurred speech; the strong odor of alcohol; and the driver's difficulty in producing and finding the license, registration, etc. A series of field sobriety tests (the walk and turn, touching the nose, etc.) were administered, with the driver failing each badly. The driver was then read the rights at the scene, arrested and brought to the station in the town of Peaceville. A breathalyzer test was administered, with the driver's consent, after all of the appropriate rights were administered and waived. Phase 1 of the test resulted in a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .182, with the phase 2 reading being .179 (both results being substantially above the legal limit of .08). The suspect was charged with driving under the influence (DUI) pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws § 31-27-2.

On its face this would seem to be a good stop and convictable offense, but for the interjurisdictional nature of the stop. This, of course, begs the question:

is this arrest legal?

To answer this we need first to examine the statutes controlling extraterritorial police conduct in these situations. The first is R.I. Gen. Laws § 45-42-1:

* "45-42-1. Emergency police power. When the police chief of a city or town within the state or his designee requests emergency police assistance from another police department within the state, the officers responding to the request shall be subject to the authority of the requesting chief and have the same authority, powers, duties, privileges, and immunities as a duly appointed police officer of the city or town making the request, until the requesting chief or police discharges and releases the assisting police officers to their own departments."

While this provision does not apply to the scenario outline above, it is worth taking a moment to review a recent Rhode Island Supreme decision interpreting this statute. In State v. Ceraso, 812 A.2d 829, 2002 R.I. Lexis 249 (R.I. 2002), the court was faced with a situation on the Newport Bridge where there had been a rollover accident near the tollbooths in Jamestown. An officer from Newport was directed to render assistance by his superior officer. Upon his arrival he found a scene of absolute chaos. At the scene were emergency vehicles from Jamestown, Newport and the State Police, all with flashing lights. Traffic was blocked preventing both civilian and emergency vehicles from moving. The Newport officer was instructed by a Jamestown police sergeant to help direct traffic to alleviate the gridlock. He did this by using his vehicle as a partial roadblock farther up the bridge and he began to direct the flow of traffic around it. The first vehicle to approach the roadblock stopped, the second did not. The Newport officer observed the second vehicle swerving lanes at a high rate of speed and then it passed through the roadblock by squeezing between the cruiser and the curb, a very narrow space. The Newport officer radioed ahead to warn the officers at the accident scene, where the vehicle was stopped by another Newport officer rendering assistance. Ultimately the driver was arrested for DUI after blowing twice the legal limit on the breathalyzer. The defendant then challenged the authority of the Newport police to stop and arrest him, alleging that there was no evidence that the Jamestown chief or...

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