A Greeneville attorney has filed a federal lawsuit contending the Tennessee Highway Patrol has a quota system for DUI arrests in violation of state law, reports the Johnson City Press.
Attorney Frank Santore filed the suit for his client, Gary A. Williams, over an arrest that stemmed from a wreck on April 20, 2014, in Jefferson County. Williams, who was riding a motorcycle, hit a vehicle that pulled into his path, according to the suit. Williams was injured and spent several months recovering. During Williams’ medical treatment, Trooper William Satterfield ordered a blood draw to test for alcohol or drugs.
Almost a year later — on Feb. 11, 2015 — the investigating officer, Trooper Derek Turbeville, obtained a warrant and Williams was arrested and charged with DUI based on a lab report showing marijuana metabolites in his system. Because Williams was injured, the trooper was unable to conduct field sobriety tests at the scene. On the day of Williams’ trial in Jefferson County General Sessions Court in March, the case was dismissed outright because the “labs only show metabolites,” according to a notation on the court judgment form.
But regardless of the fact it was thrown out, the DUI remained in the THP’s documented arrests because the agency does not follow through with case disposition, according to what officials told the Johnson City Press in several interviews last year. Commissioner of Safety Bill Gibbons and THP Col. Tracy Trott adamantly denied there was a quota system, even though multiple troopers — whose identities have been protected by the Press — said otherwise.
…In Williams’ lawsuit, he asserts that it was because of an unwritten rule for troopers to meet a certain level of arrests that he was arrested.
“Although not specifically contained in their policies and procedures, (Williams) avers that it an unwritten rule among the rank and file of the troopers patrolling Tennessee highways that they are under pressure by their superiors to ’make the numbers look good,’ i.e. to make arrests,” Santore wrote in the lawsuit. “If arrest numbers do not meet certain quotas … troopers that do not meet these quotas are given, if not explicit, implicit reprimands, demotions, changes of shift, poor preferences for schedules, and are subject to other adverse employment actions.”
The lawsuit states that because of the “informal quota system,” troopers were pressured to arrest Williams without probable cause even though the lab report “showed insufficient substances,” that would have impacted his ability to operate a vehicle. The lawsuit further noted that the charge against Williams was dismissed without the assistant district attorney general ever consulting with the investigating troopers.
As a result of his arrest, Williams had to pay a $500 bond to get out of jail, where he spent one night, and $4,000 in legal fees to defend himself… Williams asks for a jury trial and judgments against the state and Department of Safety for $350,000 as compensatory damages for violating his civil rights and $700,000 in punitive damages against the department.
Note: A previous 2015 post on THP quota claims is HERE.