Stop! It's the . . . Firefighters? by Blue LLP


Posted on 4 Sep 2013


Stop!  It's the . . . Firefighters?

In an interesting article, the Durham Herald-Sun questioned today whether firefighters have the legal authority to apprehend a suspect on the suspicion of driving while impaired. As noted in the article, this question was recently before the North Carolina Court of Appeals, and addressed in the opinion issued yesterday in State v. Verkerk.

In an interesting article, the Durham Herald-Sun questioned today whether firefighters have the legal authority to apprehend a suspect on the suspicion of driving while impaired.  As noted in the article, this question was recently before the North Carolina Court of Appeals, and addressed in the opinion issued yesterday in State v. Verkerk.

On May 27, 2011, Chapel Hill firemen followed a woman who they suspected was driving while impaired.  They reported the location and description of the car to the police.  After seeing the driver weave in and out of her lane, and almost hit a bus, the firefighters activated the truck's red lights and tapped the siren twice.  The driver stopped, but drove away from the scene after speaking with one of the firemen.  The driver was eventually apprehended by the police and charged with driving while impaired.  The driver pled guilty to the DWI charges after losing a motion to suppress the evidence.

Yesterday, the N.C. Court of Appeals sent the case back to the trial court for further review.  The Court ruled that the constitutionality of the stop and subsequent admissibilty of evidence of impairmentof depends on whether the firemen were acting as state agents or private persons when they stopped the car.  If they were acting as private persons, absent sufficient government involvement, the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures is inapplicable.

Source:  Durham Herald-Sun, "Did Firefighter Have the Right to Stop a Suspected Drunk Driver," Beth Velliquette

Blue Stephens & Fellers LLP is a criminal and commercial litigation law firm that is based in Raleigh, North Carolina.  Our North Carolina criminal defense lawyers represent clients facing serious felony charges in state and federal court.  If you have been accused of a crime and would like to discuss your options, please contact us right away.  In the meantime, please visit our Criminal Defense website.