Man Falsely Arrested for DUI Files a Lawsuit
By: Gerri L. Elder
The city of Corvallis, Oregon is being sued by a man who was arrested for DUI while he was neither drunk or under the influence of drugs. The personal injury lawsuit names both the city and a former Corvallis police officer as defendants and alleges that the man was falsely arrested and that his civil rights were violated.
Former Corvallis police officer Dave Cox arrested Brian Noakes last June near the Oregon State University campus. Cox suspected that Noakes was under the influence of marijuana because his eyes appeared to be glazed and bloodshot.
In reality, Noakes was suffering from a cold. He informed Cox that he was sick and that he had never used marijuana, but he was arrested anyway. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that as Noakes was being arrested, his wife approached Cox to try to find out what was going on and why her husband was being arrested. Aslan Noakes says that Cox told her to step back and threatened to shoot her with a Taser gun if she didn't comply.
After his arrest, Noakes submitted to a breath test at the county jail which indicated that he had no alcohol in his system. He also provided a urine sample for analysis. The urine sample was sent to the state police crime lab and tested for drugs. No drugs were found in Noakes' system. Given the results of the breath test and drug screening, the district attorney decided that there was no case against Noakes and declined to prosecute.
Noakes' personal injury lawyer, Dan Rayfield, says that what happened to Noakes was not an isolated incident. The personal injury lawsuit alleges that despite numerous other individuals being falsely arrested for DUI, the city was negligent in failing to properly supervise Cox.
The lawsuit points out three other incidences in which Cox had arrested drivers for DUI because he suspected drug use. Each of the three drivers tested negative for drug use after their arrests and were not prosecuted by the district attorney's office. Two of the men who were falsely arrested reached out-of-court settlements. One man was paid only $2,500 by the city to settle his personal injury claim and the other man fared only slightly better and received $3,000 from the city for his personal injury claim. The third man has not received a settlement and has hired a personal injury lawyer to represent him.
Nothing can be done for the men who have already settled their personal injury claims with the city. One personal injury lawyer tells the Associated Press that they did not receive enough compensation for being falsely arrested, especially because arrests for traffic offenses can not be expunged from a person's criminal history under Oregon law. Now that the men have DUI arrests on their criminal records, these false arrests will follow them for the rest of their lives, possibly causing them to lose job, housing or educational opportunities.
Cox was with the Corvallis Police Department for six years before he resigned on November 1 as a result of an internal investigation. The investigation determined that Cox unlawfully arrested Noakes and improperly threatened his wife. Before his resignation, Cox arrested hundreds of people for DUI and had even been honored for his vigorous enforcement of state DUI laws.
Noakes' wife has joined him as a plaintiff in the personal injury lawsuit and they are seeking an unspecified amount of money in damages. It is fairly safe to say that they would not feel that $3,000 is adequate compensation for a false DUI arrest resulting in a permanent criminal record and the threat of being shot with a Taser for asking the officer a question.