Gardai arrested a man on suspicion of drug driving after he drove past them as they were about to set up a checkpoint.
Gareth Jones, Beihy, Drumlish, Co Longford pleaded not guilty to the offence on December 11, 2019 at Corrabawn, Drumlish, Co Leitrim.
Garda Paul Stuart said they were in the process of setting up a checkpoint at 8.10pm when he noticed a car pass by. He said the driver had his chest almost on the steering wheel and it looked like he didn’t have a seat belt on.
They followed the car and pulled him over. He said the driver's eyes were extremely glassy and he was acting very nervously and making sudden jittery movements.
He made a requirement of a sample of his oral fluid which showed positive for cocaine.
Mr Jones was arrested and taken to Longford Garda Station. Mr Jones told him he had taken cocaine earlier as he was working in Dublin and was extremely tired and needed it for the drive back home to Drumlish.
In cross examination by solicitor, John McNulty, Garda Stuart said he was 90% sure the defendant had not been wearing his seat belt when he passed by them.
He said he spent nine or ten minutes talking to him before requiring a sample and then went back to the patrol car to analyse it.
Mr McNulty said Mr Jones felt he was left in his car for about ten minutes while Garda Stuart went back to the patrol car and conducted a check on him. Nothing came up on him on the Pulse system and Mr McNulty said it was then that the garda formed the opinion, handed him the swab and tested him.
Garda Stuart said that was not correct. He said it was his colleague Garda Flanagan who conducted the check while he was at the roadside with Mr Jones.
Mr McNulty asked the garda why it was necessary to conduct a check if he had already formed his opinion. Garda Stuart said it was standard practice.
Mr Jones said he was pulled in and the garda spoke to him and then he was left for about ten minutes in the car while they did a background check on him before coming back with a swab.
Mr Jones told Inspector Treacy that he had taken “a small bit of coke to get me back to myself” and agreed it was not acceptable.
Mr McNulty said the garda had no grounds to stop Mr Jones other than he thought he had no seat belt. He said there was also nothing in the garda’s evidence about the nature of his driving. Mr McNulty said it was his belief the garda formed his opinion after the checks were done.
He said the garda must inform the driver of his opinion and why he was carrying out the test.
Judge Kevin Kilrane complimented Garda Stuart's evidence and convicted the defendant, who is 38-years-old and the father of three children, fining him €350 and disqualifying him for one year. Recognisances were fixed in the event of an appeal.
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