Police officers in Carroll County's incorporated towns now can apprehend a drunken driver or fleeing felon when the suspect crosses outside their boundaries, without having the case tossed out of court as an illegal arrest.
Town officers are being sworn in as special Carroll County sheriff's deputies under state legislation that took effect Oct. 1, said Sheriff Kenneth L. Tregoning. Four of the five municipalities with police departments have had officers sworn in under the voluntary program, while Sykesville awaits legal advice about liability.
In the past several years, charges brought by officers in Westminster, Sykesville, Taneytown and Manchester have been dismissed for lack of jurisdiction because the arrest was made outside town, said Chief Deputy Robert L. Keefer. Most of these were drunken-driving cases.
Route 140 crosses in and out of the Westminster line, he said, so a pursuing officer might have no authority to arrest a driver if he stopped him on the wrong side of the road.
"Now, you can say, `I acted as a deputy sheriff,' " he said. "This closes that loophole."
Officers' powers as deputies are limited to actions on duty and close to their towns, Tregoning said. This authority would apply only to situations that could threaten lives or result in imprisonment, such as driving while intoxicated; fleeing police; excessive speeding or reckless driving; accidents; and driving with a suspended or revoked license.
The towns have mutual-aid agreements that allow officers to assist in emergencies in the county, Keefer said. But a town officer who witnessed an offense had to call a state trooper or sheriff's deputy to the scene and process the arrest. That also meant that two or three officers had to go to court.