The Austin, Texas man was pulled over initially for running a stop sign. From the dash cam video footage, it looks to be nighttime. I have to admit, I have on occasion run red lights at night when no one was around, because the light refused to turn green. I don’t know if that was the case here, and I’m not justifying his running of the red light. Just pointing out that it doesn’t always mean the driver must be drunk. [I should point out that in the news article, it says he ran a red light. However, in the news video, the reporter states he ran a stop sign. I don’t know which one happened, and I don’t think it really makes a difference.]
Austin police thought that running the red light (or stop sign) must have meant he’d had too much to drink. So they asked Larry Davis how much he’d had. He was very compliant and answered their questions politely and honestly. He said that he’d had only one drink that night.
The police had him get out of his car to perform field sobriety tests for them. They had him walk the line and stand on one foot.
The footage shows that he had a little trouble balancing on one foot. Apparently, your arms are supposed to be flat against your sides. In the police report, they said that the man “swayed” and “had to use his arms for balance.” Balancing on one foot while sober isn’t as easy as it looks. It’s easy at first, but the slightest movement can knock you off balance. I’d like to see these officers demonstrate the one-foot stand without “swaying” or using their arms for balance.
So, based on his unsatisfactory performance of these field sobriety tests, they arrested him. But he still had a chance to clear himself. When they got to the station, he voluntarily submitted to a breath test. He blew a .000. At that point, they should have apologized for the inconvenience and let him go. In my opinion, they shouldn’t have even bothered investigating him for drunk driving. Running a stop sign or a red light is not enough to suspect someone of DUI. They should’ve given him his ticket when they pulled him over and been on their way. If that.
But they weren’t going to give up. Sure, he blew a .000, and Davis even volunteered to have his blood tested for 7 different drugs. But he didn’t balance perfectly on one foot. Remember, he had to use his arms for balance. He had to have been hiding something. Surely the blood test would show what drugs he was on. But for the time being, he had to spend a couple nights in jail.
Several months later, the blood tests came back negative for every drug they tested for. Now, they’re positing that he could have been on marijuana, a drug that doesn’t usually show up on a blood test if administered more than a few hours after consumption. Of course, they don’t know that he had smoked marijuana. All they have is that he “swayed” a little on the one-leg stand test. And that he ran a stop sign or red light, something that only drunk drivers do, right?
The rest is all speculation. They’re assuming that he was on something. If it wasn’t alcohol, and if it wasn’t 1 of 7 different drugs, then it must have been marijuana. They’re grasping at straws to justify their unlawful arrest of Larry Davis.
I don’t know if this has had any detrimental effects on Davis’s job situation. I don’t even know what his job situation is. But for some companies, if they find out that one of their employees was arrested for DWI, that’s an offense often met with termination. They don’t care about whether you’re actually guilty. Just the fact that you were arrested is enough for them.
As a result of his unlawful arrest, he’s had to secure a lawyer. They’re filing a grievance against the officer who arrested him.
Davis is hardly the first person in his county to be unlawfully arrested for DWI. Tony Plohetski with KVUE, a local ABC affiliate, reported:
At the time [in 2011], county prosecutors were dismissing about 30 percent of drunk driving cases – more than any major Texas county — because they said APD [Austin Police Department] was bringing them weak cases that wouldn’t hold up in court.
A Defenders review finds similar statistics for 2013. Of 5,648 new DWI cases filed last year, 1,559, a little less than 30 percent, were dismissed.
Police are still abiding by a take-no-chances policy, even if it means the cases are later thrown out.
While police defend their “take-no-chances” DWI policy, where they arrest people for not being able to stand on one leg without balancing themselves with their arms, they don’t seem to care what effects it has on innocent people. Problems don’t go away just because the prosecutor decides to drop the charges against you. You still have to spend some time in jail and pay to bail yourself out. You still have to pay big money for a lawyer to represent you. You still might have to get fired from your job or least face some kind of disciplinary measures. You still have to deal with an arrest on your record. You still have to deal with all of this even if it was an unlawful arrest, and the charges against you were dropped.
They’re not helping people by unnecessarily and illegally putting them through this kind of treatment. Police need to stop these “just-in-case” arrests. I’d rather have some guilty people “get away” with their crimes than have innocent people falsely arrested “just in case.”
Here’s the news video: