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Judge Dismisses Case Against DUI Defendant Peter Lance

DA's Office says judge 'didn't find any misconduct' on the part of Santa Barbara police, including Officer Kasi Beutel

Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Brian Hill dismissed a widely publicized driving under the influence case Tuesday, ruling that the motorist’s delay after a traffic signal turned green did not provide enough legal basis for a Santa Barbara police officer to pull him over on suspicion of DUI.

Peter Lance, 63, of Santa Barbara, faced a misdemeanor DUI charge after being arrested in the early morning hours of Jan. 1. A freelance writer, Lance then wrote a series of articles for the Santa Barbara News-Press about his arrest and investigation into the credibility of arresting Officer Kasi Beutel.

Since Hill ruled there was no basis to pull Lance over, he granted a motion to suppress all evidence obtained by officers after Lance’s vehicle was stopped. That would include breathalyzer results, which Lance claimed were manipulated by Beutel.

Lance claimed his signature, and those of other DUI defendants, was forged on police report documents, relinquishing his right to have blood samples taken that could be retested later. Beutel and the Santa Barbara Police Department have denied the allegations.

During the pre-trial hearings in court, discussions focused on whether authorities had knowingly destroyed Lance’s original Trombetta waiver — which a suspect signs to waive having a re-testable blood or urine sample taken — and whether Beutel had acted appropriately.

In dismissing the case, according to the District Attorney’s Office, Hill “did not find there was any misconduct on the part of any of the involved officers, including Officer Kasi Beutel or any member of the District Attorney’s Office” and found Officer Bruno Peterson’s decision to stop Lance’s vehicle was “not unreasonable.”

Lance, who said he had been drinking champagne earlier on New Year’s Eve, was stopped at a green light, with his head looking downward toward his lap for three to five seconds, which prompted the officer to pull him over.

The case spurred a community debate on the Police Department’s lack of patrol vehicle video cameras, and a grand jury report later urged the department to install them.

The City Council put off outfitting the police fleet with cameras until the next budget cycle, but one manufacturer has since offered a trial use of its cameras in a handful of cars.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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