Supreme Court high court nixes out-of-jurisdiction arrest
A reckless driving conviction has been overturned by the Washington Supreme Court because the arresting officer was outside his jurisdiction.
The Associated Press
The reckless driving conviction of a motorcyclist north of Vancouver, Wash., has been overturned by the state Supreme Court because the arrest was made by a police officer outside his jurisdiction.
As a lifelong motorcycle enthusiast, Justice Tom Chambers also wrote in a concurrence to the 7-2 ruling Thursday that Vancouver Officer Jeff Starks lacked the experience to give an opinion on motorcycle safety in the case of Tyler Sherwood King.
Writing for the majority, Justice Richard B. Sanders held that Starks lacked the authority to arrest King on Interstate 5 near La Center on April 5, 2006, because there was no interlocal agreement giving him arrest powers outside his jurisdiction nor an immediate threat to life or property.
According to the ruling, King was going 70 mph when he stood up on the motorcycle pegs for a few seconds, accelerated to pass a large Dodge Durango on the right and then slowed back down to the speed limit of 70.
Starks, heading for work in his unmarked patrol car, said he did not get a radar reading but estimated the motorcycle's top speed at 100 mph. He told a Clark County District Court jury that he thought King appeared to be taunting the sport utility vehicle driver.
King said he stood up to relieve his sore backside, get a better view of the traffic ahead of him and give the SUV driver a better chance to see him and reduce the chance that the other driver suddenly swing in front of him as he moved to pass. Nonetheless, he was convicted at trial, the verdict was upheld in Superior Court and a state Court of Appeals commissioner denied review.
Chief Justice Gerry L. Alexander and Justice Susan Owens dissented from the majority ruling, holding that there was an emergency safety threat and that Starks was qualified to give an opinion on motorcycle safety, although he does not drive motorcycles and does not have a motorcycle endorsement on his driver's license.
Chambers wrote that he expected to merely sign the majority opinion, "but the dissent has driven me over the great abyss and caused me to pick up pen and paper."
Expressing "no doubt that Officer Jeff Starks is a fine and principled officer," Chambers continued, "it is very clear to me that he is not intimately versed in the safe operation of motorcycles. I say that as a person who has ridden motorcycles for all of his adult life and who owns and operates several, some designed for highway use only, some designed for off-road use only and some for both...
"Given the officer's admitted lack of experience with motorcycles, he should not have given opinion testimony on the safe operation of motorcycles."
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