Erratic driver almost hit police officer

STEVE HOPKINS
Last updated 05:00 03/12/2012

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A man who drove up to a police car, ''behaved in an erratic manner'', then sped off almost hitting the officer has argued his convictions over the incident should be dismissed because the officer spoke to him for too long.

On June 27, Sidney Brown Rudland drove up to a parked police car on Maungakiekie Ave, Greenlane, and stopped in the centre of the road, a recent Court of Appeal decision details. 

An officer in the patrol car motioned for Rudland to continue driving, but he didn't, so the officer did a u-turn and drove up beside his car so he could speak with him.

"The officer noted that the appellant presented himself as behaving in an erratic manner in that ... eyes were darting everywhere, his demeanour was very unusual," the decision reads.

The officer then parked his car in front of Rudland's, bonnet to bonnet, activated his flashing lights and went to his driver's door to speak with him. 

He asked Rudland what he was doing in the area and he gave three different responses, including that he was driving home from work and that he didn't work at all. 

The decision notes the officer became concerned about Rudland's ''mental state and his ability to drive'',  so asked for his driver's licence, the details of which he wanted to check with the police call centre via his car radio. 

The officer didn't do that immediately though as he was becoming ''increasingly concerned'', instead he opened Rudland's driver's side door and asked him to get out.

Rudland began fidgeting with his keys, despite twice being told not to, started his car and then reversed ''driving in an arc that required the officer to jump out of the way to avoid being struck by the open door of the vehicle''.

Rudland was arrested a short time later by another officer and was convicted and fined $200 on charges of careless use of a motor vehicle and failing to remain stopped as long as required.

Counsel for Rudland argued the officer took too long to check his details and had ''no continuing right to require'' him to remain stopped.

In dismissing the challenge, the Court of Appeal said the officer's actions in parking in front of Rudland's car and activating his siren ''amounted to an implied direction to remain stopped'' and he was prudent in taking his time to assess Rudland's mental state and ability to drive.

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