How can someone be charged with DUI and not have a drop of alcohol in his or her system?
It’s something that has puzzled Jessie Thornton (pictured) since the night he was pulled over by officers from the Surprise Police Department in Surprise, Ariz., last week. According to police documents obtained by KNXV-TV in Phoenix, Thornton was pulled over because he crossed the white line in his lane. An officer allegedly told him that he knew he was driving drunk because of how Thornton’s eyes looked. The 64-year-old retiree from Ohio says his eyes may have been red because he had just finished swimming at a local fitness center.
“I take my glasses off and he says, ‘You’ve got bloodshot eyes.’ I said, ‘I’ve been swimming at LA Fitness,’ and he says, ‘I think you’re DUI,’” Thornton said. “He (the officer) goes, ‘Well we’re going to do a sobriety test.’ I said, ‘OK, but I got bad knees and a bad hip with surgery in two days.’”
The officer was not convinced.
He called for other cops to conduct a sobriety test; he passed. But Thornton was still arrested for DUI because the officer believed he was drunk. When the officers asked him to sit on the curb, Thornton told them about his hip issues. They allegedly brushed him off.
“I couldn’t even sit on the ground like that and they knew it and I was like laying on the ground, then they put me in the back of an SUV and when I asked the officer to move her seat up ’cause my hip hurt she told me to stop whining,” Thornton said.
Here is more from KNXV-TV:
According to documents provided to ABC15 from the City of Surprise, Thornton was taken to police headquarters where he took a breathalyzer test.
The test, according to the police documents came back with a blood alcohol level of 0.000.
“Yes, I do the breathalyzer and it comes back zero, zero, zero,” said Thornton.
While in custody, a “DRE” or drug recognition expert is called to test Thornton.
“After he did all the tests, he says, ‘I would never have arrested you, you show no signs of impairment,’” said Thornton.
The Surprise resident is right. The police documents show the drug recognition officer wrote, “I conducted an evaluation of Jessie, in my opinion Jessie was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.”
According the documents from the Surprise Police Department, the blood analysis showed no drugs were detected in Thornton’s blood.
Jessie’s car had been impounded and the MVD notified of the DUI charge.
“I then get this message that my license is being suspended and I have to take some sort of drinking class or something,” said Thornton.
According to the police documents, Thornton was later released to his wife.
“She was at work and had to come get me, it was a mess, I couldn’t believe it,” said Thornton. “On top of that my car was impounded on a Friday night and they said I couldn’t get it until Monday..”
Thornton now claims this wasn’t DUI.
“It was driving while black,” said Thornton.
“This is a case of D-W-B, driving while black,” said Thornton’s attorney Marc Victor.
Victor’s office has filed a notice of claim against the City of Surprise seeking $500,000.
“It’s not totally about the money, although I’m already out more than $5,000, that’s $5,000 that I don’t have,” said Thornton.
“This is not the way American citizens ought to be treated by officers or treated by anybody for that matter,” said Victor.
To be clear, ABC15 provided the Surprise Police Department an opportunity to talk about Thornton’s incident, however, due to standard policy, the Department was unable to comment due to pending legal action.
The DUI charge was recently dropped, but Victor’s office claims it’s not enough.