Jessie Thornton, a 64-year old man from the retirement community of Surprise, Arizona, adjusted his sleep schedule to match his wife’s schedule. His wife is an ER nurse who works nights. Thornton runs his errands, does his chores, and goes to the gym at night while his wife works so that they can both sleep during the day.
It seems as though law enforcement suspicion heightens in the nocturnal hours. “I’ve been stopped 10 times in Surprise and given four tickets,” Thornton told ABC15.
The latest stop resulted in DUI charges purely because the police believed what they wanted to believe.
According to the Surprise Police, Thornton was pulled over on June 5th at about 11 p.m. for allegedly crossing the white line. When the officer approached Thornton’s vehicle, they accused him of driving drunk because his eyes were bloodshot.
“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,'” said Thornton to ABC15. “[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.'” It was later confirmed that Thornton was, in fact, scheduled for hip replacement surgery two days after the arrest.
Notwithstanding the officer’s acknowledgment of Thornton’s physical condition, additional officers arrived and conducted field sobriety tests. He was then placed in handcuffs and taken to the station.
At the station, Thornton submitted to a breathalyzer that determined that his blood alcohol content was a 0.0 percent. What’s more, a drug recognition expert was called in to evaluate Thornton, as if everything else wasn’t enough to convince the officers that Thornton was not under the influence. Sure enough, the expert concluded that he showed no signs of impairment.
The charges against Thornton were eventually dropped, but not before his car was impounded and told that he had to take a DUI course to get his driving privileges reinstated.
Talk about your classic case of believing what you want to believe. The officer expects to see drunk drivers at night and that’s exactly what he’ll find, whether it’s true or not.
In this case, it wasn’t true and Thornton is now suing the City of Surprise.
It would be one thing if there was, at the very minimum, some actual evidence that a DUI possibly occurred, even if it later turned out that it didn’t. But this seems to about as egregious as they come.