The Utah Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld a Springville man's ninth drunken driving conviction.
Robert Van Dyke, who killed a woman in a prior DUI crash, had appealed his April 2008 conviction for DUI, arguing that the officer who stopped him lacked the requisite cause to do so. Van Dyke also claimed the judge in his case allowed prosecutors to present evidence against him that violated the Fifth Amendment's protection against self-incrimination.
In September 2007, a couple called 911 saying they had seen Van Dyke in a Spanish Fork park. They thought he seemed to be drunk, and they saw him drive away. The woman said Van Dyke smelled of alcohol, and the couple observed Van Dyke having what they considered an "odd conversation" with their young son in the parking lot before Van Dyke left.
The officer who responded to the "possible DUI" call followed Van Dyke for 91/2 blocks and noted no violations but did see Van Dyke's vehicle weaving within his lane four times. Van Dyke was stopped and refused to perform field sobriety tests or blow into a Breathalyzer device. The officer also testified later that Van Dyke's speech was slurred and he smelled of alcohol.
Defense attorney Shelden Carter told the Utah Court of Appeals on Oct. 27 that the officer erred in stopping his client because there was no basis for any reasonable suspicion that Van Dyke was driving drunk.
"We saw nothing to justify a traffic stop," Carter said.
A three-judge panel, however, disagreed.
"Under a totality of the circumstances, there was reasonable, articulable suspicion to justify a stop to investigate whether Van Dyke was driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol," the judges wrote at the conclusion of their 16-page ruling.
The judges also ruled that because Van Dyke wasn't forced to refuse sobriety testing, his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination was not violated when the judge allowed evidence of that refusal to be presented at trial.
Van Dyke's lengthy history of drunken driving includes a conviction for automobile homicide, a second-degree felony.
In January 2000, Van Dyke was driving under the influence when he hit and killed Michelle Bradley, 34, in West Valley City. Bradley's 12-year-old daughter, Amber, suffered injuries including loss of vision in her right eye and a diminished sense of smell. The crash also injured Bradley's sister-in-law, Elizabeth Dresen, who was nine months pregnant at the time, and killed the family's dog.
Van Dyke was released from prison in January 2006 for his conviction in the Bradley case. He is now serving a five-year prison term for the 2008 conviction and has been denied parole. He is scheduled to be released in 2012.