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Original article, Aug. 29, 1997:
Woman sues after arrest despite passing DUI breath test
By BRENDAN SMITHStaff Writer, Daytona Beach news Journal DAYTONA BEACH SHORES Even though Debra Alise Griffey blew a .00 on two alcohol breath tests, she still got arrested for driving under the influence after a traffic stop here in May 1996. Griffey, 31, of Holly Hill now is suing the city, claiming false arrest and malicious prosecution. Her attorney, George S. Pappas of Daytona Beach, filed the lawsuit in circuit court last week. Pappas had sought a $100,000 settlement, which the city refused.
"Their driving is impaired," he said. "That's already been determined (by the officer)." By this point, a person who hasn't consumed any alcohol and possibly no drugs now has a criminal record and a trip to the jail.
The policy isn't an isolated one. Daytona Beach and Ormond Beach police follow a similar procedure. It's up to the officer in the field to decide if the results of the field sobriety tests constitute probable cause for an arrest, said Mike Judd, Ormond Beach police spokesman. Even if the alcohol breath tests and urine test are negative, that doesn't get the driver off the hook, Judd said. It's then up to the State Attorney's Office to decide whether to prosecute the case.
"We wouldn't let the person go," Judd said. "A lot of cases boil down to what the officer observed. If an officer wanted to, for whatever reason, he could manipulate that."
According to Griffey's arrest report completed by Officer Michael Fowler, Griffey failed four videotaped field sobriety tests. Griffey kept her balance in the tests but lost points for things like counting the number 14 twice in the one-leg lift and not keeping her eyes closed during the finger-to-nose test.
Even though the alcohol breath tests confirmed Griffey hadn't been drinking, Fowler wrote in his report Griffey smelled of alcohol and had red eyes and slurred speech. Griffey also appeared to be "confused and nervous," Fowler's report states. Fowler couldn't be reached for comment on his report Thursday.
Here is the Rest of the Story:
Ms. Griffey settled out of court for an undisclosed amount of money. The police officer, Michael Fowler appologized for humiliated her. The reason that she smelled of alcohol was because she had been bartending that night and had alcohol spilled on her clothes. According to her daughter, she doesn't even drink. "She had bruises on her wrists from the handcuffs and the police officer didn't even bother to put her seat belt on her. He took sharp turns which cased her to hit her head. He ASSumed she did drugs and asked her if she was on heroin. She was confused because she did nothing wrong and was being treated like a drunk, when in actuality she was tired because she had been working hard all night."
Unfortunately, this is not an
isolated incident. How many real drunk drivers get away because officers like Michael
Fowler are arresting innocent citizens?