Federal Court Overturns Bogus DUI
Sober woman sues after being jailed on a false drunk driving charge.
When courts acquiesce to lowering the standards for arrests and heighten the importance of placing people under arrest for the political crime of OVI, injustices are sure to follow. Just such an injustice was done to Catrena Green and she’s fighting back!
Green was stopped in August 2008 by an Ohio State Trooper for failure to dim her high beams. When the Trooper stopped Green, she explained that due to the wet conditions she was trying to be careful. She then asked if she had done anything else. “No, not really,” the Trooper said during the stop. “You just brighted me and blinded me.” Around this time, Throckmorton momentarily pointed his flashlight inside Green’s vehicle. Throckmorton stated in his deposition testimony that he aimed the flashlight’s beam toward the floor of the vehicle so as to illuminate Green’s face without shining the light directly into her eyes. He “noticed that her pupils were constricted,” which he thought “was kind of abnormal” because his training had taught him that a person’s pupils will typically dilate in a dark setting. But, as he noted during his deposition, “different chemicals or different types of drugs [can] hamper this process. The Trooper then asked Green to retrieve her license and asked whether she had anything to drink She said, “Nope. Water.” He also asked whether she had taken any drugs or medication. She stated that she had not.
Though Green did not smell of alcohol or drugs, the Trooper decided to perform field sobriety tests on her. He noted that she was unable to follow the swift motion of his pen in a horizontal-gaze nystagmus test that he spent twenty seconds administering. He noted that “she talked slowly” while repeating the letters of the alphabet beginning with “L” and ending in “S.” She struggled to stand on one leg in the balance test. Green, who was 42 and overweight at the time of the tests, swayed slightly while performing the walk-and-turn test. On the basis of the standardized field sobriety tests, the Trooper arrested Green for DUI. She spent two days in jail while trying to make bail. Subsequent to this nightmare, Green was vindicated when the lab results returned a 0.0 (BAC) and found no drugs in her system. All charges stemming from the questionable arrest were dropped.
Green fought back by suing the Trooper she alleged was lying. Green subsequently brought suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Trooper, alleging that he had violated her Fourth Amendment rights by (1) conducting the field sobriety tests without having a reasonable suspicion that she was impaired, and (2) arresting her without probable cause. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Trooper on both counts and dismissed the case basing their decision on the officer’s immunity. Green, however, continued to fight by appealing to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. They reversed the lower court’s decision and ruled that a jury should decide whether there were specific and articulable facts, not just a hunch, justifying Green’s detention for the sobriety tests. “We find her argument persuasive,” Judge Ronald Lee Gilman wrote for the court. “What matters here, rather, is what mattered in Miller: that a subsequent test for drugs and alcohol showed that the driver was in fact sober. That evidence alone is sufficient to cast doubt on the truthfulness of Throckmorton’s testimony regarding Green’s pupils.”
“We understand, of course, the difficulty inherent in making on-the-fly determinations regarding possible driving impairments, just as we recognize the severity of drunk driving and the potential consequences of an incorrect call had Green ultimately proven to be impaired,” Judge Gilman wrote. “But this difficulty and these consequences always exist when an officer stops someone for a traffic violation. Yet officers do not have free rein to administer field sobriety tests to whomever they please and then to arrest that person for making the slightest misstep while performing the tests. Whether that is what happened in this case is a question for the jury.” Source: Green v. Throckmorton (US Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit, 6/13/2012)
An Ohio OVI lawyer should be prepared to challenge the officer’s determination of reasonable and articulable suspicion. Make sure the Ohio OVI lawyer you choose has the most recent copy of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, Student Manual. Charles M. Rowland has all such manuals and has received the same level of training in the standardized field sobriety tests as law enforcement. He has furthered his education by being Ohio’s only Forensic Sobriety Assessment certified attorney which goes beyond the NHTSA manual to investigate the science (pseudo-science) of the tests. If you need an attorney who has worked hard to achieve the highest level of training possible, contact Charles M. Rowland II today at 937-318-1DUI (318-1384), 1-888-ROWLAND or www.DaytonDUI.com.
- Field Sobriety Test Studies Found to Be Flawed (duiblog.com)