Tennessee man with cerebral palsy mistaken for drunk driver

A man from Tennessee who has cerebral palsy recently filed suit against the local sheriff, sheriff's deputies and the court clerk after officers mistook his condition for symptoms of drunkenness and arrested him on suspicion of a DUI.

The silver lining of his story is how it shows Nashville law enforcement officers' vigilance when it comes to drunk driving. On top of that, Nashville-area residents injured by a drunk driver may be able to seek recompense for the harm caused to them in a civil suit, which gives innocent drivers an added layer of protection.

The 59-year-old man in this incident has cerebral palsy, which manifests itself in unsteady speech and shaky movements. He was driving home in May 2010 when he accidentally hit a dog. The dog was ran away, but when the man stopped at a nearby house to explain what had happened, the residents mistakenly thought he was intoxicated and called police.

The responding officers did not believe the man when he said he was not drunk and booked him in jail. Then, prosecutors filed charges even after the man presented a doctor's note explaining his condition. They eventually dropped the charges for unknown reasons.

The man's suit alleges his reputation was damaged because he lives in a small town and everyone quickly knew of his "drunk driving" arrest. He is seeking punitive damages and a change in police policy that would be more responsive to people with disabilities.

The man's case goes to show that law enforcement officers are always on the lookout for drivers who have had too much to drink. To add to that reassurance, Nashville drivers should also remember that a civil case can follow the criminal trial a drunk driver will face. If someone is injured by a drunk driver, he or she may be able to recover damages for his or her injury in a civil suit.

Source: Disability Scoop, "Man With Cerebral Palsy Sues Over Bogus Drunk Driving Arrest," Shaun Heasley, 6 June 2011.

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