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Court: No retrial for 5-time drunken driver

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Kevin Murphy/Special to the Gazette
October 23, 2008
— A Walworth County man convicted of fifth-offense drunken driving after showing up drunk at the courthouse should not get a new trial, a state appeals court ruled Wednesday.

Court security officers noticed the smell of intoxicants when Steven R. Pierson, 46, of Sharon, arrived at the Walworth County Courthouse in May 2006 for an unrelated case.


An officer notified Deputy Kenneth Brauer who knew Pierson had been released on bond three weeks earlier with conditions that prohibited him from consuming any alcohol and driving, according to the Second District Court of Appeals decision.


Brauer waited for Pierson to complete his court appearance and with Pierson’s attorney present asked Pierson if he had been drinking and driving. Pierson said that he had, and a preliminary breath test showed a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.22, more than twice the 0.08 legal limit to drive.


Circuit Judge John Race later sentenced Pierson to one year in prison for a prior drunken-driving conviction and added two years for the May 2006 incident.


Pierson appealed, claiming Brauer should have read him the Miranda warning before questioning him at the courthouse.


The appeals court disagreed, saying Pierson wasn’t in custody when Brauer questioned him in the courthouse hallway and, therefore, wasn’t entitled to a Miranda warning.


“Brauer was aware that Pierson had appeared in court smelling strongly of alcohol and appearing intoxicated and was aware that as a condition of his bond he could not consume alcohol. He was therefore entitled to stop Pierson in the public hallway to investigate whether he had violated his bond conditions by consuming alcohol and by driving to the courthouse under the influence of an intoxicant, thereby also committing a new OWI offense,” the appeals court decision reads.


Pierson’s attorney Vladimir Gorokhovsky said a decision on whether to appeal to the state Supreme Court would be made after he consults with Pierson, who is in prison.



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