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Thibault v. Wierszewski

Area of Law:

Fourth Amendment, unlawful arrest, qualified immunity. This action was brought by a truck driver who was taken into custody for driving under the influence of drugs and was subsequently found to be sober at the time of the arrest.

Grounds:

Defendant sought to exclude opinions by plaintiff’s retained expert witness because the expert was not qualified, and his opinions were irrelevant and invaded the province of the jury.

Outcome:

The court denied the motion to exclude plaintiff’s expert opinions.

Analysis:

The Court found that the expert was qualified to testify on how field sobriety tests are administered and how officers should interpret a driver’s performance on those tests because he had been a state trooper for twenty years, administered field sobriety tests himself, and trained other officers on the testing. The court further held that such testimony would be helpful to a jury because a jury is unlikely to be familiar with the procedures and standards of sobriety tests. However, the court noted that it will not permit the expert to opine as to whether the defendant had probable cause to arrest the plaintiff, since probable cause is a question of law that is not properly the subject of expert testimony.