Tony LaRussa is back in baseball as the Chicago White Sox manager, but he is also facing a drunk driving charge following his arrest in February of this year. This is LaRussa’s 2nd DUI and the first occurred more than 10 years ago in Jupiter, FL where he pled guilty in 2007 to misdemeanor DUI. This current case is in Phoenix, Arizona. More than likely LaRussa could end up pleading guilty to some type of DUI charge but this is a perfect example of how not to handle a drunk driving stop. While he is a hall of fame baseball manager, a lawyer, he knows nothing about how to handle a drunk driving stop and an arrest.
Possible pre-trial legal arguments that could help LaRussa
Obviously, before entering plea, LaRussa’s criminal defense lawyer should evaluate possible pre-trial motions which should focus on suppressing the evidence against him. Remember that a motion to suppress will focus on the reasonable suspicion and or probable cause to stop a driver and or the reasonable suspicion and or probable cause to arrest the driver for drunk driving. This is often the best way to fight a drunk driving charge before trial.
LaRussa was arrested after police responded to an alleged accident in which LaRussa ran his car into a curve and left it smoking on the side of the road in Phoenix, AZ. This set of circumstances probably means that his attorney won’t be able to successfully argue a motion to suppress for lack of probable cause to stop LaRussa. The accident itself provides police with sufficient probable cause to stop a driver for suspicion of drunk driving (DUI).
Why LaRussa didn’t handle his DUI arrest the right way.
Remember, however, that DUI/DWI isn’t limited to alcohol and can also involve illegal and legal/prescription drugs. There is no evidence however that this case involved anything but alcohol. Authorities charged the hall of fame manager with driving under the influence and alleged that his BAC exceeded .08 (the legal limit). LaRussa however refused the chemical tests (blood tests) even though police obtained a search warrant to obtain 2 vials of his blood following the incident. Its important to keep in mind that in most situations, police are required to obtain a search warrant for blood following the United States Supreme Court decision in Birchfield relating to search warrants and blood tests. Keep in mind that the Birchfield decision does not apply to breathalyzer tests.
LaRussa should not have refused the chemical test and this will not help his criminal case. While it is likely that LaRussa will not face any type of jail time or any serious consequences. Arizona, like Pennsylvania and New Jersey, may have a separate criminal offense for refusing a chemical test relating to a DUI. Regardless of the outcome of the criminal case, Arizona, like PA and NJ, will likely suspend LaRussa’s driving privileges through administrative sanctions. Like New Jersey and Pennsylvania, Arizona is an “implied consent” state which means that as a precondition for obtaining a driver’s license or driving privileges the driver gives implied consent to submit to a DUI, blood, or urine test. Similarly, if a person refuses a chemical test in Arizona, it results in a 1-year drivers license suspension for a first offense just like Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
What could have made the case better?
What is interesting is that LaRussa agreed to take a field sobriety test when he had every right to refuse it especially since there is evidence to suggest that LaRussa could not have correctly performed the test due to his age (76) and a prior surgery. If LaRussa had explained to the officer that he could not take the test it would have been better than taking the test which likely showed failing results. At a potential trial, the prosecution can not only introduce LaRussa’s refusal as consciousness of guilt but draw attention to his inability to correctly perform the field sobriety test.
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