A man in Surprise, Arizona says he’s being unfairly targeted by police officers due to his unusual sleep/work schedule and is now suing the department for $500,000 after a recent incident where he was arrested for drunk driving despite having a BAC of 0.00 percent.
The man, Jessie Thornton, is a retired firefighter that lives in Arizona with his wife, a nurse who works the night shift. Thornton says in an attempt to spend more time with her, he shifted his own sleep habits so that he was in bed during the day and up running errands at night. The problem with this approach is that his appearance outside late at night has attracted a lot of attention from the Surprise Police Department. Thornton says he has been pulled over 10 times and received four tickets since moving to the area several years ago.
The latest incident, however, was the most egregious and is what led Thornton to file a lawsuit against the police department. The night began when Thornton was pulled over a little after 11 p.m. He has just left his gym, LA Fitness, where he was swimming laps in the pool. The arresting officer claimed she saw him drift over the white line and that this amounted to erratic driving. Thornton’s attorney said such small lane shifts would never be noticed during the day, but at night police automatically assume intoxication.
The officer told Thornton to get out of his car and said that she could tell he was drunk due to his bloodshot eyes. Thornton tried to explain he’d just come from the gym and the water in the pool likely made his eyes redder than usual. The officer then handcuffed Thornton and made him sit on the ground, despite Thornton telling her he had bad knees and was scheduled for a hip replacement only two days away.
After some time passed and other officers arrived, Thornton was asked to perform a field sobriety test on bad knees and a hip that police later verified was scheduled to be replaced in a matter of days. After poor results, the officers arrested Thornton and took him back to the police station where he was given a breathalyzer test. This is where things get interesting because the test showed that Thornton’s BAC was 0.00 percent.
Despite several tests confirming the absence of alcohol, police continued their investigation, dragging in an officer who was trained to detect the presence of drugs in a suspect’s system. Thornton said after meeting with the drug recognition expert, he was told that he never should have been arrested because the officer detected no signs of impairment. This was later confirmed with a blood test which showed Thornton had no drugs or alcohol in his system that evening.
Despite this, Thornton was still charged with drunk driving, had his license suspended and his car impounded. Though the charges have now been dropped, it’s taken the man thousands of dollars and month’s worth of work to unwind the legal trouble he was in and now believes the police department that caused the harm should be held responsible for jumping to such wildly incorrect assumptions.
An individual’s right against unwarranted intrusions by the government is extremely important. The Minneapolis Drunk Driving Attorneys at Kans Law Firm, LLC work diligently defending drivers rights against unreasonable searches and seizures in the context of driving under the influence cases.