Fake DUI Arrest Case Leads to Questions about Probable Cause

In any traffic stop, a police officer or highway patrol trooper must have probable cause to pull over a driver. For example, the driver may have violated a traffic law by speeding, running a stop sign, or making an illegal turn. Probable cause may also include a driver exhibiting driving behaviors listed on the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration's (NHTSA) list of visual detection cues indicated probable DUI: inability to maintain the lane, fluctuating speed, making wide turns, driving too close to other vehicles or stationary objects, braking for no apparent reason, etc. It is unlawful for a law enforcement officer to "cherry pick," or stop cars whose drivers do not exhibit unlawful or suspicious behavior. Besides, according to the NHTSA's findings, the likelihood of a driver being impaired in a random traffic stop at night is only 3 percent. That figure contrasts starkly with the percentage of "impaired" drivers arrested by fired Utah Highway Patrol trooper Lisa Steed. After receiving a "Trooper of the Year" award, in part due to her high number of DUI arrests, Steed told reporters that her high arrest rate was due to her vigilance and hard work, saying, "It's a numbers game," and claiming that 1 in 10 drivers pulled over for a traffic violation is impaired--10 percent rather than the 3 percent indicated by the federal agency's research. Steed set records for her number of arrests, garnering 400 DUI arrests in a single year--more than double the number obtained by anyone else on Utah's DUI squad. In her 5 years as a trooper, she made 750 DUI arrests before being taken off patrol and ultimately being fired in 2012. Steed was fired after it came to light that she did not follow protocol in making arrests. In some cases, her dash cam would be pointed toward the floorboard of her car prior to the stop, so there was no evidence to corroborate or dispute her claims of unlawful or erratic driving. In other cases, she conducted field sobriety tests out of view of the dash cam, making her testimony the only evidence in the case. Perhaps most shocking is her arrest of people who later blew a 0.0 on a breathalyzer test--people who were arrested despite passing all field sobriety tests. The following video shows the DUI arrest of a woman whose case was dismissed after she was found to have no alcohol in her system: The woman in the video is not the only one. The first two lawsuits against Steed were filed by drivers arrested for DUI despite having no alcohol in their systems. One of those two was a woman who drove her intoxicated husband home. Steed approached the woman after she arrived at home and said she was speeding. She then told the woman she smelled alcohol, and the driver explained it was her husband. Despite the woman being a sober driver preventing her husband from driving drunk, and despite her being in her own front yard, the woman was arrested for DUI and her husband arrested for public intoxication. Their cases were dismissed. Another man reports that he nearly lost his job and security clearance as a result of being arrested by Steed despite blowing a 0.0 on three different breathalyzer machines. He says that his dismissal cost him four days off work and nearly $4,000. How can you protect yourself from an illegal traffic stop? First, do not say anything to police if you are pulled over. Provide only your identification, but do not answer questions. Some of Steed's suspects were arrested after they indicated past drug use, which she used as probable cause to suspect current drug use. Second, you can turn on the video camera of your cell phone or mobile device and record the encounter to rule out inconsistencies in the police report and the actual occurrence. If you cannot get an audio or video recording of the stop, at least make detailed notes about what happened as soon as possible. Finally, do not consent to a search, but do not attempt to interfere with police officers if they illegally search. Any evidence gained from an illegal search may be thrown out. If you are the subject of an illegal traffic stop, unlawful search, or wrongful arrest, we can help. View site to learn more.

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