Judge throws out drunken driving charge against Rep. Beck

Friday, July 24, 2015, Vol. 39, No. 30

NASHVILLE (AP) — A judge on Tuesday threw out a drunken driving case against freshman state Rep. Bill Beck on the basis that the police officer did not have reasonable suspicion to pull him over.

Beck was arrested in April after the arresting officer said he spotted the Nashville Democrat's pickup truck traveling with two wheels in the turn lane. After the stop, the officer said Beck had bloodshot eyes, a disheveled appearance and slurred speech.

Beck, who told the officer he had not been drinking, declined to take a sobriety test or give a breath alcohol sample.

Judge Phillip Maxey, who was brought in to preside over the case from neighboring Cheatham County, said dashboard video from the officer's patrol car did not show that Beck was veering, and that a "momentary observation" of the vehicle crossing the line did not rise to the level of reasonable suspicion for making the stop.

"He was driving down the street and he was not completely in his lane," Maxey said. "I can't tell you how many times I've done that sober. I've hit the rumble strip so many times in the last week it's uncountable."

Beck said he was pleased with the ruling.

"I always had my faith in the legal system that it would uphold the law. I knew I was not impaired at the time," Beck said after the trial, adding that he was looking forward to getting back to exclusively taking care of his district and constituents.

Prosecutor Nathan McGregor acknowledged before Maxey's ruling that it was a "close call" on whether Beck's driving warranted a traffic stop.

"But I do think the stop was lawful," he told the judge. "After that, I frankly think it's easy for the state. There's tremendous evidence that Mr. Beck was impaired."

At around 1 a.m. on April 17, the arresting officer, Bradley Nave, said he made a U-turn to pull Beck over after noticing his vehicle was outside its lane of at least three seconds. Nave is recorded as telling Beck's wife, who had been called to retrieve his truck, that her husband was "absolutely hammered."

Nave said he found credit card receipts on Beck after the arrest showing he had been at three restaurants that evening, and that a state Alcoholic Beverage Commission official had retrieved the itemized receipt from one establishment showing he had paid for two glasses of wine and two beers.

But Nave acknowledged under questioning from Beck's attorney, Bryan Lewis, that the receipts didn't show who had consumed the drinks.

Lewis also questioned whether the video showed what Nave described and suggested that the officer's cruiser was also over the line when he turned to pursue the lawmaker. And he argued that the lawmaker has a speech impediment that was mistaken for slurring, and that his walking was affected by a childhood disability.