Apodaca v. State Taxation & Revenue Dep’t, Motor Vehicle Div – Case Brief Summary (New Mexico)

In Apodaca v. State Taxation & Revenue Dep't, Motor Vehicle Div., 118 N.M. 624, 884 P.2d 515 (Ct. App. 1994), the police observed a motorcycle weave within its lane of travel and stopped the driver out of concern for the driver's welfare. The officer then made observations that caused him to arrest the driver for driving while intoxicated. Id. at 625, 884 P.2d at 516.

Referring to our Reynolds opinion, we stated that we "recently held that a police officer may stop a vehicle for a specific, articulable safety concern, even in the absence of reasonable suspicion that a violation of law has occurred or is occurring." Apodaca, 118 N.M. at 626, 884 P.2d at 517.

The Court held that such "a stop is justified by the officer's role as a community caretaker." Id.

The Court held that, under the community caretaker exception, a police officer had lawfully stopped a motorcycle that he had observed weaving in its lane of traffic. Id.

Although the driver of the motorcycle had not violated any traffic laws, "weaving like that described by the officer could well result from a driver's attempting to retain control of his motorcycle, or to resist the effects of drowsiness, illness, or a similar problem." Id.

Therefore, we held that the officer had not violated the constitutional rights of the driver by stopping him "to ascertain whether he needed assistance." Id.