Surprise Officers Arrest Man For DUI Who Registered 0.000 on Breathalyzer

Surprise_AZ_seal275px-BafometroI am beginning to get an idea of how Surprise, Arizona got its name. Jessie Thornton, 64, was arrested for driving under the influence after he passed a sobriety test. A later breathalyzer registered 0.000. The officer arrested him because his eyes were red. After Thornton explained that he was swimming, the officer was unconvinced and arrested him anyway.

Thornton was handcuffed and forced to sit on the curb despite telling the officer that he recently had hip surgery. The pain grew worse when he was put in the police cruiser and he asked an officer if she could move her seat up, but he says that she told him to stop whining. He was taken to the station and given the breathalyzer test and blew 0.000. He was then taken to a drug recognition expert who also cleared him. He was forced to get his car out of impoundment but the charges were dropped.

He is now suing and his lawyer alleges that the mistreatment was due to his client’s race. Thornton is African-American.

He is now suing for half a million dollars.

By the way, legend has it that the town was founded in 1938 by Flora Mae Statler, who named it Surprise as she “would be surprised if the town ever amounted to much.” With cases like this, it may be too early to tell.

Of course, Thornton’s reading was just .05 off the produced new blood alcohol level being pursued by the Administration. At a one drink limit, some people could pass a sobriety test and still be legally drunk.

Source: CBS

70 thoughts on “Surprise Officers Arrest Man For DUI Who Registered 0.000 on Breathalyzer”

  1. Another reason why DUI laws should be overturned. Arresting someone merely because they might hurt someon or damage property could lead to arrests for diving while talking on cell phones, texting, arguing with a passenger, being observed having turned around to shush kids etc.

  2. Mike, Do you think you’re closer to Bill McWilliams or myself on the DUI topic. The War on Drugs is an entirely different topic and should not be conflated w/ DUI laws, unless you want to muddle the discussion.

    1. 1. “Drunk driving is indeed a problem, however, like the other fears that are used to further control us via a police state, it is overblown. The already unrealistic alcohol limits being lower are not to protect anybody. They are to give the police authority to make judgments as to who to harass. There is a simple proof of this proposition and that is that the police could stakeout any popular bar in their area and pull people over the minute they leave the parking lot. While this is sometimes done, it is relatively rare in this country. The reason it is not done is that virtually every driver coming out of a bar parking lot is “legally drunk” and the business community would take reprisals politically.”

      2. “There are more than enough criminal laws in our system to deal with such dangerous drivers, without adding ammunition to those who would use law enforcement to gratify their egos and their pre-judgments. Our country leads the world in per capita rates of incarceration. What that fact teaches us is that draconian punishment only breeds more, not less reckless behavior. The definition of insane, such as with the “War on Drugs” is doing the same thing over and again, with no success.

      Judging just from the stories that make the news many of the worst accidents involving DUI’s are committed by multiple offenders, who kept getting off. Specific laws are not the problem, which is really unequal application of the laws.”

      Nick,

      Those quotes were the essence of each of the comments I made. I am not against DUI laws per se, as I am not against enforcement of those laws on the books. However, I think the standards for DUI are set too low. By the same token I think the standards of what is reckless driving are set too high. I believe that a “tailgater”, or obsessive “lane changer” are every bit as dangerous as many people arrested for DUI. Yet by my experience driving “tailgaters” are rarely pulled over, neither are overly aggressive drivers. While it is true that tailgating and aggressive driving are sometimes symptoms of DUI, my guess is that most of the time it is engaged in by incompetent drivers.
      As to whose views I’m closer too, I’ll leave that for you or others to judge.

  3. Michael Val Asked:
    “The officer did not have a breathalyzer with her, but had to take him back to the station?”
    ~+~
    There is a handheld device commonly called a PBT (Portable Breath Tester). It is used to sample breath tests in the field where the larger, more exacting breathalyzers are typically stored at the police station.

    The PBT is used to help determine if the person is at an illegal intoxication level before an arrest is made. In WA, and some other states, PBT test results can be used for probable cause to arrest for DUI but the result of this test is inadmissable in court due to the courts ruling the device is not sufficiently reliable to determine BAC result accurately. The main breathalyzer at the station provides this accuracy.

    I have heard of cases where some sheriff’s departments which have resident deputies who patrol far from the office have fullly enabled breathalyzers in the trunks of their vehicles, but this is rare.

  4. False arrest. Plain and simple. I would like to see the arrest report this officer made but from what I have read here and in the news articles I do not see where there was probable cause. If the defendant passed the FST’s, blew a .000 on the Portable Breath Test I don’t see any evidence of a crime. The red eyes? That is one indicator of alcohol use but it is also an indicator of many other things, especially when it does not accompany any other evidence.

    This officer has some serious issues, not just lack of training but something else is going on, likely some personality issues. I have seen that when officers start making questionable arrests such as this they are generally unsuited to be officers.

    I have personally made hundreds of arrests for DUI over the years and the number of those who blew .000 were probably around 6 or 7. All of those were drug impaired and it was obvious that they were, it was only a matter of using the Drug Reco Expert to determine which kind. I even had one who was huffing gasoline when he was stopped.

    If one were to look at the numbers, a person who blows a .000 and “could” be suspected of DUI (as in being drug impaired) is probably 2% to 3%. Couple that with showing NO signs of impairment other than the red eyes what is the chance the person is impaired? Next to none. Not worth it.

    The city is going to lose this case, it’s just a matter of how much they are going to pay.

  5. OS, I agree w/ you about bad cops. Hopefully you understand I realize this was a bad cop and collar. However, in this blog I think some people need to be reminded that most cops are good, hard working, honest people who do a very difficult job. You certainly don’t need that reminder, but you must know many here do.

  6. The very basic fact I’m pointing out is there is a WIDE disparity in the DUI laws. Some states are maybe draconian. My state of Wi., where the beer and tavern lobby reign, the laws are horribly inadequate. I suppose insular people who have only lived in one or two places have a difficult time grasping this simple concept.

    1. Discussing disparity of DUI laws among the States may have small bearing on the issue in general. As we see with Drug Laws, the enforcement in different States, may or not be in accordance with State law depending upon the locality enforcing them. One having traveled/stayed in and through almost all of the Continental U.S., as I have, rarely becomes expert on the peculiarities of disparate LEO’s unless they have been arrested. Even having relationships with individuals doesn’t provide expertise, since they may themselves be skewing their experience and/or justifying it. What is possible is taking an egregious case such as this, seeing the quite numerous instances of similar occurrences across the nation and extrapolating trends throughout our country.

      There are more than enough criminal laws in our system to deal with such dangerous drivers, without adding ammunition to those who would use law enforcement to gratify their egos and their pre-judgments. Our country leads the world in per capita rates of incarceration. What that fact teaches us is that draconian punishment only breeds more, not less reckless behavior. The definition of insane, such as with the “War on Drugs” is doing the same thing over and again, with no success.

      Judging just from the stories that make the news many of the worst accidents involving DUI’s are committed by multiple offenders, who kept getting off. Specific laws are not the problem, which is really unequal application of the laws.

  7. To add insult to injury, Mr. Thornton was informed his driver’s license has been suspended. His hips were indeed in bad shape, because he had hip replacement surgery.

    Here is a little more information on Mr. Thornton:

    http://www.wptv.com/dpp/news/national/jessie-thornton-surprise-arizona-dui-given-despite-blood-alcohol-content-of-0000

    mahtso, this link takes you to a group photo of the Surprise, AZ police department. It may answer your last question.

    https://fbcdn-sphotos-b-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-prn1/p480x480/996188_492414220831544_645406764_n.jpg

  8. “However I did not think white crackers [or am I jumping to a conclusion] existed in arizona. I thought they were a product of the deep south.”

    What evidence is there to show that the man’s race was a factor? What are the races of the police officers involved?

  9. nick,
    Regarding your suspicion of the stop and arrest being racially motivated, I tend to agree. Of course, just based on the limited information available, we can’t know for sure, but my own rather cynical suspicion bump is itching. One can only speculate what might have happened if the driver were a Caucasian middle aged man in a suit and tie, but I am sure we have a pretty good idea.

    As for me, having been in this business almost a half century, my perspective is that the substantial majority of gun deaths, auto accidents, domestic violence and road rage incidents are fueled by alcohol. Not to mention lost jobs and minor accidents around the home. The guy who falls off a ladder while cleaning his gutters does not get reported in any database.

    Since we have such a major problem with legal alcohol, it seems to be a truly large waste of time hassling and arresting somebody who blows 0.00 on the Breathalyzer.

  10. The officer did not have a breathalyzer with her, but had to take him back to the station?

  11. “If you seeq….. the carnage caused by……”

    One can fill in the blanks fot this kind of argument and arrive at problemmatic results, that might go against their own precepts. For instance there could be “If you see the carnage caused by guns……”, or if “You see the carnage caused by terrorists…..”. DUI can lead to terrible, unwarranted tragedy, but its remedy proposed from fear and disgust may go beyond reason and justice, as we see in this case. I am against draconian solutions that can’ t separate the wheat fom the chaff.

  12. nick sez: “…..to nitpick stupid or overzealous cops instead, is ludicrous @ best.”

    *******************************************
    nick,
    Ever hear the old saying:

    For Want of a Nail

    For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
    For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
    For want of a horse the rider was lost.
    For want of a rider the message was lost.
    For want of a message the battle was lost.
    For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
    And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

    The point is, if we ignore the little stuff, it just gets bigger and bigger. We are seeing the fruits of that now, with the overreach of these so-called “security” agencies which seem to make us less safe than more safe. We have seen what happens when departments like Oakland, NYPD, LAPD and others go unchecked too long. Catch it early, catch it often and make it uncomfortable for the brass and city or county administration. Keep at it until their lawyers and insurers order them to dial that kind of stuff back a notch.

  13. “Fraud probe vs. Phoenix officer may hurt DUI cases”

    http://www.azcentral.com/community/phoenix/articles/20130607phoenix-fraud-probe-vs-officer-may-hurt-dui-cases.html

    http://www.azcentral.com/video/#/News/Phoenix+DUI+cases+in+jeopardy+because+of+cop 19s+investigation/40280768001/35150280001/2452553390001

    “The defense attorneys who want the allegations against Schuiteboer to be disclosed as part of their clients’ cases take a different view, citing U.S. Supreme Court decisions. They argue that information that could be favorable to the defense or cast doubt on a verdict is information that prosecutors are obligated to disclose. The need is particularly acute in DUI cases where officers like Schuiteboer, who is certified to draw blood, can act as the arresting officer or serve as the expert on how physical evidence was handled, Koplow said.
    “There’s a distinction between disclosure to attorneys and admissibility at trial. We’ll fight the admissibility part later. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to make the disclosure,” he said. “What if their case is based on whether the guy followed procedure and his word is everything? Most of the time, you have the officer’s testimony as to what they saw, and then the blood-test results, his testimony can affect both.”

    The frustration among defense attorneys increased Friday as they learned of the search warrant, whichThe Arizona Republic printed from a court computer open to the public.

    Girard said he delivered a letter to Phoenix Police Chief Daniel V. Garcia and the Phoenix prosecutor’s office on Friday reminding both agencies of their obligations to disclose information such as the allegations against Schuiteboer to defense attorneys.

    The public disclosure of the allegations against Schuiteboer may change how prosecutors handle active cases he was involved with in the future, Girard said, but the information could also impact prior DUI prosecutions that already went through the system” more..

  14. “Fraud probe vs. Phoenix officer may hurt DUI cases”

    http://www.azcentral.com/community/phoenix/articles/20130607phoenix-fraud-probe-vs-officer-may-hurt-dui-cases.html

    “The defense attorneys who want the allegations against Schuiteboer to be disclosed as part of their clients’ cases take a different view, citing U.S. Supreme Court decisions. They argue that information that could be favorable to the defense or cast doubt on a verdict is information that prosecutors are obligated to disclose. The need is particularly acute in DUI cases where officers like Schuiteboer, who is certified to draw blood, can act as the arresting officer or serve as the expert on how physical evidence was handled, Koplow said.
    “There’s a distinction between disclosure to attorneys and admissibility at trial. We’ll fight the admissibility part later. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to make the disclosure,” he said. “What if their case is based on whether the guy followed procedure and his word is everything? Most of the time, you have the officer’s testimony as to what they saw, and then the blood-test results, his testimony can affect both.”

    The frustration among defense attorneys increased Friday as they learned of the search warrant, whichThe Arizona Republic printed from a court computer open to the public.

    Girard said he delivered a letter to Phoenix Police Chief Daniel V. Garcia and the Phoenix prosecutor’s office on Friday reminding both agencies of their obligations to disclose information such as the allegations against Schuiteboer to defense attorneys.

    The public disclosure of the allegations against Schuiteboer may change how prosecutors handle active cases he was involved with in the future, Girard said, but the information could also impact prior DUI prosecutions that already went through the system” more..

  15. Bron: An individual can sue for civil rights violations. The defendants are: the Law Enforcement Offender who is the “state actor”, who violated or deprived him of a civil right; the Supervisor of the Leo; and the municipality. Plaintiff can seek punitive damages as well as actual damages. He can not seek punitives against the municipality. He is entitled to attorneys fees separate from the damage awards. This is called a “1983 lawsuit” which is authorized by federal statute to be brought in a federal district court. Title 42 Untied States Code, Section 1983 and section 1885 for conspiracy and section 1988 for atty fees. The individual Leo is on the hook for the damage award unless the town reimburses him. The town has a deeper pocket. A federal judge in Saint Louis has just set the hourly rate for a top line attorney at $450.00 per hour. All of which might eventually come as some Surprise to this town of munchkins. Plaintiff should allege that all he did was let the sun go down on him in that town.

  16. Bron,

    That just shows you haven’t spent much time in the desert.

    As for the rest? I’ll remind you of that statement next time you want to think graft is a single party criminal transaction.

  17. Gene H:

    it was a joke.

    And no, I dont think all businessmen are rational, moral actors. Why would I do that? Just because I liked Atlas Shrugged doesnt mean I think CEO’s are really neat people.

    I thought cracker was more prolific in the southeastern US. I dont think of cracker inhabiting a sandy, rugged terrain with scrub. Cracker habitat seems more swampy and mossy with rolling hills and oaks and pine forest.

    We got the northeastern cracker, the southeastern cracker, the Texas cracker [a virulent sub-species], the Louisiana cracker.

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