Appeals court rejects ruling in DUI arrest

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SANDPOINT — Idaho’s Court of Appeals is overturning two lower court rulings that suppressed evidence in a drunken-driving case in which a Sandpoint Police officer pursued the suspect outside of city limits and arrested him.

The appellate ruling remands the case against Matthew Gilbert Scott back to the magistrate division of 1st District Court for further proceedings.

Gilbert, 24, was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence shortly before 2 a.m. in December 2007. Gilbert came to the attention of Officer Derrick Hagstrom after he sped from a stop sign while driving west on Pine Street, according to the arrest report.

Hagstrom’s radar verified that Gilbert was speeding and he began pursuing Gilbert’s pickup truck. The officer stopped Gilbert at Syringa Heights Road, about a mile outside of Sandpoint.

Gilbert failed field sobriety tests and his breath alcohol level was measured at 0.11, court documents said.

As the case neared trial, the defense filed a motion to suppress which argued that the evidence of Gilbert’s intoxication was obtained outside of Hagstrom’s jurisdictional authority. At a hearing on the motion, Hagstrom testified that he didn’t activate his overhead lights until he caught up with Gilbert to deprive him the opportunity to escape.

The state argued Hagstrom was in “fresh pursuit” of Gilbert, but Judge Michael Griffin disagreed. Griffin held that Hagstrom could have activated his lights while they were still inside the city and Griffin had no indication that he was being pursued.

The state appealed the magistrate’s ruling in district court, but Judge John T. Mitchell affirmed Griffin’s ruling, prompting the state to further appeal.

The state maintained that Idaho Code enables law officers to follow a suspect beyond their jurisdiction if they observe an offense and can initiate a pursuit provided there is no unreasonable delay.

Appellate Judge Pro Tem C.J. Walters determined the pursuit was justified and that Hagstrom had the discretion as to when to activate his overhead lights.

“The officer activated his lights and made the traffic stop at his first opportunity, considering police procedures for stopping suspects,” Walters said in a six-page opinion published on Tuesday.

Chief Judge Karen Lansing and Judge Sergio Gutierrez concurred.

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