In this article, a St. Augustine DUI lawyer explains the circumstances under which a detention may be made without warrant or reasonable and articulable suspicion that illegal activity is in progress or is likely to occur.
The Community Caretaker
Under this definition, an officer is free to intervene in situations that indicate that a citizen is endangered or in need of assistance. In essence, it is the “serve and protect” part of an officer’s duties and is sanctioned by the courts and the government.
Application In DUI Situations
To give an example of how this doctrine might apply to a DUI case, a situation arose in one state in which a police officer found a stopped vehicle on the side of the road. The driver appeared to have fallen asleep with the engine still engaged, although he had turned off the vehicle’s headlights. The officer looked inside, then tapped on the window to try to wake the driver up. When there was no response, the police officer became concerned that the driver was ill, had suffered a heart attack or some other emergency and opened the door of the car. The driver was deep in an inebriated slumber, which is why did not hear the tapping on the window.
The state’s Supreme Court upheld the officer’s decision to open the vehicle, deeming that it fell under the “community caretaker” provision. The court explained the position by mandating that there must be clear, unbiased and definable facts that are sufficient for an officer to deduce that someone is in danger, sick, injured or needs some other kind of assistance. Once that deduction is made, the officer is free to take such action as is required to remove the danger or provide whatever other help is needed. Once that is done and the person is safe and cared for, the officer’s duty to the citizen ends. He is no longer authorized to make any seizures or take any other action. Such action would be counter to the provisions afforded under that particular state’s constitution.
Check the Laws in Your State
Laws vary from state to state. Your St. Augustine DUI attorney has the resources to consult your state’s statutes concerning the community caretaker doctrine as it applies in your area. Contact Patrick Canan at 904-824-9402 today.