Simultaneous Sibling DUI Arrests
Early Tuesday morning, a brother and sister were arrested for a DUI at the same time in Fort Collins. The 22 year old brother was pulled over and the 24 year old sister, who was driving behind him, pulled over voluntarily when his brother was stopped. Both ended up being charged with a DUI.
Tyler Tavernier was pulled over by CSU police for a broken tail light and an improper turn. Sister, Sarah Tavernier, voluntarily pulled over to the bike lane when her brother was pulled over. CSU police contacted Sarah, characterizing contact with her as consensual. Both siblings appeared intoxicated. The brother admitted to drinking and failed the roadside tests. The sister had an odor of alcohol on her breath, watery eyes and also failed the roadside tests.
Consensual Encounter v. Reasonable Suspicion for DUI Contact
In general, police may contact a person under two circumstances: 1. as part of a consensual encounter, meaning the person contacted agreed to the contact and had the right to stop the contact at any time; or 2. based on reasonable suspicion that the person contacted committed, is committing or is about to commit an offense, including a minor traffic infraction. In the above situation, the sister was contacted based on a consensual encounter and the brother was contacted based on reasonable suspicion. The sister voluntarily stopped her car, making her contact with police consensual. The brother only stopped his car because CSU police pulled him over for having a defective tail light and making an improper turn.
It is very unusual for a DUI investigation to begin with a consensual encounter. Most DUI investigations begin as a result of a traffic stop based on reasonable suspicion. An officer makes a traffic stop and then based on additional observations of the driver while asking for registration, license and insurance, the officer may ask the driver questions about whether he/she has been drinking and may even ask the driver if he/she is willing to perform voluntary roadside tests and/or a portable breath test. Based on all of this information, the officer may then have probable cause to believe the driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs or both, which gives the officer the right to ask the driver to take a blood or breath test to determine his or her actual level of intoxication.
The process is the same even if the investigation begins as a consensual encounter. In the above scenario, the sister pulled over voluntarily and then when the officers began speaking with her they observed indicia of intoxication, such as watery eyes and the odor of alcohol and unsatisfactory performance of the roadside tests. Once the officer had enough information to suspicion that the sister committed a DUI, the contact changed from consensual to non-consensual, meaning at a certain point during the investigation, the sister was no longer free to leave.