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Police charge completely sober man with drunk driving

Man files $500,000 lawsuit after being booked, having car impounded, despite proof he was not impaired

Published June 10, 2013

An Arizona retiree who was charged with impaired driving after a late-night traffic stop — despite the fact that a breathalyzer test showed a blood-alcohol content of zero — is suing the force for half a million dollars.

Jessie Thornton, 64, a former firefighter, told ABC15 News he was pulled over after dropping off  his wife at her job as a night nurse and then hitting the gym for a workout in Surprise, Ariz.

On his way home, he was pulled over for what police reports allege was the infraction of “crossing the white line in his lane.” Thornton says that’s when the nightmare began.

“[An officer] walked up and he said ‘I can tell you’re driving DUI by looking in your eyes,’ ” Thornton said. “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 … we’re going to do a sobriety test.’ ”

Thornton said he agreed to the test but warned the  officer that it might be difficul for him because he has “bad knees and a bad hip” and was scheduled for hip surgery in two days.

“I couldn’t even sit on the ground like that and they knew it . . . 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.”

Thornton’s car was impounded and he was taken to police headquarters where he took a breathalyzer test.

The test  came back with a blood alcohol level of 0.000.

“Yes, I do the breathalyzer and it comes back zero, zero, zero,” said Thornton.

But that wasn’t the end of it. Next, a drug recognition expert was called in to test him.

“After he did all the tests, (the drug expert) says, ‘I would never have arrested you, you show no signs of impairment, ‘” said Thornton.

Police documents show the drug recognition officer wrote, “I conducted an evaluation of (Thornton), in my opinion (Thornton) was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.”

Thornton was later released to his wife, who had been summoned from work to pick him up.

“It was a mess, I couldn’t believe it,” said Thornton. “On top of that my car was impounded on a Friday night and they said I couldn’t get it until Monday.”

Thornton has filed a lawsuit against the City of Surprise and is seeking $500,000 in damages.

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