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4/17/2008
Sober Arizona, Oregon Motorists Arrested for DUI
Sober Arizona and Oregon motorists must pay thousands to defend themselves against false DUI charges.

Dave Cox
A number of sober motorists in Arizona and Oregon have been falsely accused of driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) and drugs. In Corvallis, Oregon a falsely accused motorist is fighting back.

At the beginning of the month, Brian J. Noakes, 23, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against David Cox, a former award-winning Corvallis Police Officer. Cox had pulled over Noakes last June. Because Noakes had a cold, his eyes were bloodshot. Noting this, Cox accused Noakes of being high behind the wheel and arrested him. When Noakes' wife asked what was going on, Cox threatened to shoot her with his taser. As reported by the Corvallis Gazette-Times newspaper, breath and urine tests confirmed Noakes had been completely sober and free from drugs.

Noakes wants to recover the money he spent on legal fees and impose a monetary punishment on the department for allowing continued harassment of innocent motorists. The suit cites as examples of a pattern the false arrests of motorists Joshua Sauter, Eric Stavale and Carl Feher, all of whom were cleared when chemical testing proved they were not driving while on drugs. Under Oregon law, a DUI arrest cannot be expunged from records, even of those found innocent.

The Phoenix New Times newspaper has documented similar incidents in Arizona. On May 18, 2006, motorist Shannon Wilcutt, 35, stopped at a restaurant with her four-year-old boy for dinner after she had been to the dentist for work on her dentures. She drank one-half of a mimosa and several glasses of water. A patron saw all of the glasses, assumed Wilcutt had been drinking too much and notified the police.

Wilcutt was pulled over and officers reported that "her speech was slow and slurred." Wilcutt explained that without teeth -- her dentures were removed earlier in the day -- her speech was impaired for an obvious reason. But that was enough for police to handcuff and book her while her son, John, watched.

A breathalyzer test claimed Wilcutt's blood alcohol content was .048 -- well under the legal limit of .08. But this test was given after Wilcutt used an inhaler for her asthma, something known to distort the effect of breath alcohol measurement. Police then waited five months to release the results of a definitive blood test that showed her true BAC to be .022. The only drug in her system was a single, legally prescribed hydrocodone pill taken after she finished dinner. Her home was only ten minutes from the restaurant.

Despite the lack of evidence, the county attorney filed three felony charges against Wilcutt, only to drop them in February. Wilcutt spent $12,000 in legal fees to defend her name.

The same thing happened to Diana Sifford, 52. As she drove home from a George Thorogood concert having had a single glass of wine -- her BAC tested at .03 -- she came upon an accident scene. Police were outraged that Sifford passed a parked car too closely and so pulled her over and accused her of DUI. When Sifford volunteered that she took a Vicodin pain pill earlier in the day to fight the pain of a recent back surgery, police charged her with driving under the influence of drugs. A urine test showed no traces of Vicodin or any other drug in her system.

Sifford was jailed overnight and her car impounded. She tried pleading her case without a lawyer in court, but nobody would listen. In January, she spent $3000 for an attorney who was able to limit the damage to a guilty plea for not staying in her lane.

Source: Sober man arrested for DUII taking Corvallis to court (Corvallis Gazette-Times (OR), 4/4/2008)



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