A North Carolina State Highway Patrol trooper was accused of driving while impaired after he was arrested on July 21. Two law enforcement officers took the man into custody after they found him in the driver’s seat in his vehicle on a street in Wilmington. However, a spokesperson for the Wilmington Police Department said on July 27 that the trooper is no longer facing charges.
The arrest occurred at about 3:30 a.m. on Princess Street in downtown Wilmington. The arresting officers, one with the Wilmington Police Department and the other a Sheriff’s deputy, said that the dashboard lights in the man’s vehicle were on when they detained him. However, the police who investigated the case determined that the vehicle that the man occupied was not in motion nor was its motor running at the time that the officers made the arrest. Accordingly, the charge against the 53-year-old man was dismissed. Police did not file any additional charges against the trooper.
To convict someone of a criminal charge, prosecutors must prove that an accused person’s actions fulfill the statutory elements and definitions of a crime. North Carolina’s impaired driving law defines a driver or operator as “a person in actual physical control of a vehicle which is in motion or which has the engine running”. Prosecuting attorneys would have been unable to substantiate a DWI charge in this case because the trooper accused did not fit the statutory definition of a driver.
Police and prosecutors must follow state laws in criminal cases, and errors or malfeasance commonly result in the dismissal of charges. The diligence of an attorney experienced in criminal defense can often uncover these issues, which may invalidate an arrest, render evidence inadmissible, or compel judges to dismiss charges outright.
Source: WWAY 3, “DWI charges being dismissed for trooper arrested in Wilmington“, July 27, 2018