Woman Wrongfully Arrested For OVI Fights Back

In August of 2008, Catrena Green was stopped by an Ohio State Trooper when she neglected to dim her high beams as she passed the Trooper traveling the opposite direction. The Trooper explained why he had stopped Green and she explained that the wet road conditions were making it difficult for her to see. Asking if she had done anything else to warrant the stop, the Trooper responded, “No, not really.”

Following this exchange, the Trooper pointed his flashlight’s beam toward the floor of the vehicle so as to illuminate Green’s face without shining the light directly into her eyes. According to his testimony, the Trooper “noticed that [Green’s] pupils were constricted, ” which his training had lead him to believe indicated intoxication. The Trooper asked Green whether she had anything to drink to which she replied, “Nope. Water.” The Trooper also asked whether Green had taken any drugs or medication which she denied.

The Trooper admitted that Green did not smell of alcohol or drugs, but decided to perform field sobriety tests on her anyway. The Trooper alleged that Green was unable to follow the motion of his pen in the horizontal-gaze nystagmus test, that she “she talked slowly” while repeating the letters of the alphabet beginning with “L” and ending in “S”, and she repeatedly put her foot down while performing the one-leg stand test. Finally, the Trooper maintained that Green swayed slightly while performing the walk-and-turn test. Based upon his observations, the Trooper placed Green under arrest for OVI. Green spent two days in jail before making bail and was later exonerated when lab testing proved she had no alcohol or drugs in her system, leading to a dismissal of the charges against her.

Following the dismissal, Green sued the Trooper in federal court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that he had violated her Fourth Amendment rights by conducting the field sobriety tests without having a reasonable suspicion to believe that she was impaired and arresting her without probable cause. The federal district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Trooper and dismissed the case, holding that the Trooper was entitled to qualified immunity.

Green appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, who, upon review in Green v. Throckmorton(6 th Cir. 2012), 10-4487, reversed the lower court’s decision, ruling that a jury should have decided whether there sufficient facts to justify the Trooper’s detention of Green. In so holding, the Court opined, “We find her argument persuasive…[w]hat matters here, rather, is what mattered in [ Miller v. Sanilac County (6th Cir. 2010), 606 F.3d 240]: that a subsequent test for drugs and alcohol showed that the driver was in fact sober. That evidence alone is sufficient to cast doubt on the truthfulness of Throckmorton’s testimony regarding Green’s pupils.”

The Court continued, “We understand, of course, the difficulty inherent in making on-the-fly determinations regarding possible driving impairments, just as we recognize the severity of drunk driving and the potential consequences of an incorrect call had Green ultimately proven to be impaired. But this difficulty and these consequences always exist when an officer stops someone for a traffic violation. Yet officers do not have free rein to administer field sobriety tests to whomever they please and then to arrest that person for making the slightest misstep while performing the tests. Whether that is what happened in this case is a question for the jury.”

The experienced attorneys of DiCaudo, Pitchford & Yoder have extensive experience challenging traffic stops and arrests in OVI/DUI cases. If you have been charged with OVI/DUI in Ohio, a knowledgeable Criminal Attorney from DiCaudo, Pitchford & Yoder may be able to help. For legal advice or information, contact, the attorneys at DiCaudo, Pitchford & Yoder today.