A Rockville Superior Court judge has granted a defendant’s motion to suppress statements attributed to the arresting officer in a drunken driving case, and in doing so, criticized the officer for allegedly not following proper protocol.
Judge Hope Seeley said Ellington police officer Bart Alexander made multiple missteps in arresting a 37-year-old Ellington man in his driveway. Alexander arrested Andrew Kinghorn after receiving a report of a man possibly driving drunk in a pickup truck, but failed to confirm the color, type of vehicle, or license plate number.
In her Feb. 19 ruling, Seeley wrote that Alexander’s testimony also omitted important details, and found that the officer demonstrated a lack of basic legal knowledge. For instance, Kinghorn’s legal team had argued Alexander, a veteran officer, wrongly described state law governing flat tires.
“Alexander’s lack of knowledge that driving a vehicle with a flat tire constituted a motor vehicle infraction in Connecticut has impacted the court’s assessment of his knowledge regarding the lawfulness of motor vehicle stops,” Seeley wrote. “If, after 23 years as a police officer, Alexander did not know that driving on a flat tire constituted an infraction, which is a relatively obvious application of the law, the court cannot conclude that Alexander had an understanding as the constitutional requirements for a lawful motor vehicle stop.”
Alexander, who was working Tuesday, did not respond to a request for comment.
Alison Kubas of the State’s Attorneys Office in Rockville is prosecuting Connecticut v. Kinghorn. She did not respond to a request for comment, but has asked Seeley for until Friday to determine the state’s next course of action.
Meanwhile, Kinghorn’s lawyer, Jay Ruane with Shelton-based Ruane Attorneys, said he’ll ask Friday for a dismissal of the charges against his client, who’s charged with operation of a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, a felony which carries a maximum of three years in prison. Kinghorn was also issued an infraction for having unsafe tires, which could incur a $98 fine.
Ruane said Seeley’s ruling didn’t surprise him because “the law supports it.”
“Anytime you bring a motion to suppress in a DUI case you are fighting an uphill battle,” he said. “There were, though, a lack of skills on the part of this officer. He had an inadequate investigation and he did not know the law regarding operating a flat tire, and that’s critical.”
Ruane said “the officer illegally seized” his client, and declined to comment on whether he believes Kinghorn was drunk at the time of the arrest.
Attorney Jerald Lentini assisted Ruane on the case.