The Associated Press reports that a former Utah state trooper and her superiors are facing a lawsuit concerning wrongful DUI arrests. Utah state trooper Lisa Steed built her reputation on nabbing DUI arrests, using an “uncanny talent — as one supervisor once described it — to garner hundreds of arrests, setting records, earning praise as a rising star and becoming the first woman to become trooper of the year.” Turns out her “talent” had more to do with careerism than keeping Utah roadways safe.
Steed made over 400 DUI arrests in her first year on the Utah state DUI task force and received recognition and awards for her efficiency, but eventually, her deceit was exposed. In 2012, while testifying for a DUI case, Steed admitted that she had left her microphone in her police car during a DUI investigation to hide her violation of agency protocol. Soon after, Steed’s credibility became so questionable that prosecutors wouldn’t accuse cases if Steed’s testimony was the only evidence.
The lawsuit was brought by two defendants who were arrested for DUI with no alcohol in their system. Steed arrested them for DUI based only on traffic violations and sobriety tests or the scent of alcohol. They then had to deal with attorney’s fees, insurance premiums, occupational conflicts, and an arrest record all for nothing. Michael Studebaker, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said that there were dozen of defendants from Steed’s past arrests ready to testify.
The arrests in this lawsuit remind me of someone I spoke to recently who had driven into a roadblock. He had an unopened bottle of beer in his car, and because of this and possibly the odor of alcohol, he was instructed to pull over to the side of the road for further investigation. He performed the HGN test, took a preliminary breath test, and was arrested and charged with DUI less safe. The arresting officer did not offer the suspect any more tests or attempt to get a warrant to draw blood, yet he felt it was proper to arrest him based on the limited evidence of one field sobriety test and a preliminary breath test. Why didn’t the officer ask him to do more than one sobriety test? Why didn’t he even try to get him to take a state-administered breath or blood test to get a more accurate reading of his blood-alcohol level? Did he even think this person was DUI? Maybe Lisa Steed knows.