CBS News reports that a suspected DUI motorist who was wrongfully accused of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs in 2020 will receive $400,000 in a settlement with the City of Loveland, Colorado.
The plaintiff, Harry Elias, of Windsor, Colorado, filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Loveland and two Loveland Police Department officers for an incident that happened on January 4, 2020,
Court documents show that Elias had been driving home when Loveland Police Department Officer William Gates pulled him over for failing to signal when changing lanes and driving 18 miles per hour in a 45-mile-per-hour zone.
Officer Gates testified that as he approached Elias’ vehicle, he detected an “overwhelming odor of alcohol.”
When questioned, Elias told Officer Gates that he had consumed a single alcoholic drink some six hours before he was stopped. When asked to perform a series of field sobriety tests, Elias refused. Officer Gates arrested Elias on suspicion of DUI.
A breathalyzer test taken at the Loveland Police Station showed that Elias had no alcohol in his system.
“I thought they would thank me for my time and offer to give me a ride home,” Elias said.
Elias was asked to take a blood test instead.
The blood test confirmed that Elias had no alcohol or drugs in his system at the time.
Elias’ attorney, Sarah Schielke, believes that the entire incident stems from a police culture that incentivizes officers to make more and more DUI arrests.
“When you incentivize making more arrests of that type of crime, you’re going to get exactly what we’re looking at right now,” Schielke said. “Nobody cares about the innocent people; they only care about that stat.”
In 2021, Elias was again pulled over, this time by Fort Collins Police officers. He was arrested for DUI and spent three days in jail. Blood tests again confirmed that there was no trace of alcohol or drugs in his system.
Elias expressed surprise that he was hit twice by two different police departments with the same result.
“Both the city of Loveland and Fort Collins picked the wrong guy to pick a fight with,” he said.