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Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Rules in Favor of Woman Falsely Arrested for DUI

Last week, a three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals overturned a district court decision granting an Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper immunity for his actions pertaining to a DUI arrest. The actions of the trooper resulted in a woman, with no drugs or alcohol in her system, being falsely arrested and imprisoned for DUI. The woman is now allowed to move forward with her lawsuit against the trooper.

The incident occurred in 2008, when the trooper saw the woman driving with her SUV's high beam lights activated. After he pulled her over the woman explained that she was driving carefully, and had her bright lights on in order to better see under the wet conditions. The stop was recorded by a camera on the dashboard. The woman inquired if she had done anything else wrong and the trooper said, "No, not really," he continued, "You just brighted me and blinded me."

Although the trooper did not smell drugs or alcohol, he said that the woman struggled to get out of her safety belt and that her pupils were "constricted." He then performed a series of field sobriety tests. During the tests the trooper noted that she talked slowly, couldn't follow his pen with her gaze, that she had difficulty standing on one leg and that she swayed when doing the walk-and-turn test.

Based on her performance of the tests the trooper arrested the woman for DUI. Unable to make bail, the woman was in jail for two days.

Lab tests showed she had no drugs in her system and a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.0. She argued she was tested and detained in violation of the Fourth Amendment, without probable cause.

The court found the lab tests cast doubt on the truthfulness of the trooper's testimony about the woman's pupils. A jury will now decide whether the facts justified the woman's detention.

Judge Gilman explained, "...officers don not have free rein to administer field sobriety tests to whomever they please and then 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: theNewspaper.com, "Ohio: Federal Court Overturns Bogus DUI Arrest," June 13, 2012.

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