Jessie Thorton, a 61-year-old retiree, was arrested and charged with DUI in Arizona despite having a blood alcohol level of 0.00. The reason the arresting officer gave to Thorton: “I can tell you're driving drunk by the look in your eyes.”
Thorton, a retired firefighter who, because of his wife's schedule as an ER nurse, often sleeps during the day, was pulled over at 11 pm in Surprise, Arizona after police officers say they witnessed him crossing the white line in his lane.
"He (the officer) walked up and he said 'I can tell you're driving DUI by looking in your eyes,'" Thorton told ABC 15 in Arizona.
Thorton, who had been working out at a nearby LA Fitness, told the officer his eyes were bloodshot because he'd been swimming at the gym's pool.
"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 then made Thorton take a sobriety test.
"At one point, one of the officers shined the light in my eye and said, 'Oh, sorry,' and asked the other officer if he was doing it right,'" said Thornton.
Thornton said he was then placed in handcuffs and told to sit on the curb.
"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," said Thornton.
Police arrested Thorton and brought him to the police station for a breathalyzer test. According to police documents, his test showed he had a blood alcohol level of 0.00. "Yes, I do the breathalyzer and it comes back zero, zero, zero," said Thornton.
A drug recognition expert was called in to examine Thorton. The expert eventually determined that Thorton was completely sober, reportedly telling Thorton. “I would never have arrested you.” The expert wrote a statement, saying, “...in my opinion Jessie was never under the influence of drugs or alcohol.”
By that time, Thorton's car had been impounded and the Arizona MVD had been notified of Thorton's DUI arrest. "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.
Thorton was eventually released from custody to his wife. The DUI charge was later dropped, but Thorton has filed a notice of claim against Surprise for $500,000. "This is a case of D-W-B, driving while black," said Thornton's attorney Marc Victor.
Thorton told WXYZ he's been stopped 10 times in Surprise and has been issued four tickets.
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