Though she was not intoxicated, a woman who was pulled over for traffic violations was placed under arrest for DUI when the officer interpreted her anxious demeanor as an indication that she was under the influence.
On July 22, 29-year-old Ariel Berry went out in her pajamas to pick up a quick late-night bite with her boyfriend when they were on the way to his residence.
As her boyfriend was giving her directions, Berry, who was driving, became confused causing her to break a few traffic laws.
As stated by Berry in a news interview regarding the incident, she suddenly noticed that an officer was behind her, and while using an intercom he began yelling in an attempt to get her to pull over.
Berry followed the Phoenix officer’s orders and chose to stop the car in a nearby parking lot.
When the officer, who is a specialist called a Drug Recognition Expert, began to interact with Berry she said she was already feeling symptoms of anxiety and she interpreted his demeanor as overly-aggressive.
After she was cited for three traffic violations the officer said he thought that he detected a hint of the scent alcohol coming from inside the vehicle, and after Berry got out of the vehicle he believed the smell was still present on her. The woman said she told the officer that she had one sake earlier in the evening, but that she had not been drinking since.
Berry, who was standing outside while still wearing her pajamas, was reported as telling the officer that she has anxiety and she had not slept in a few days, in addition to explaining that she has a fear of men and police. She said that when she asked for a female officer on the scene more male officers arrived instead.
As a Drug Recognition Expert, the officer is one of 300 in the state who has been trained to perform a 12-step exam for evaluating a person assumed to be under the influence of a substance, but the woman said that this method was never employed.
The officer believed Berry was under the influence and asked her to go through traditional roadside tests, of which she was not able to perform well due to her fearful and exhausted state. When he administered the breathalyzer it gave a reading of .02 percent blood-alcohol content (BAC).
During the interaction, the officer was said to have continuously asked Berry if she was taking drugs, to which she assured him she was not and has never done.
She told a news reporter that she tried to explain to him that she was very tired and it was a late hour, and she reportedly said, “I’m scared of you because you’re a man and you have a gun. I don’t have anything of protection. You don’t have a body camera, so there is no proof of what does or doesn’t happen here tonight.”
After reportedly telling Berry that he is an expert at his job and that he has a 98% success record, the woman was taken into custody for both alcohol and drugs, and she was given a blood test in an effort to obtain a more accurate BAC.
The test revealed that Berry was not under the influence of any drugs, and the level of alcohol in her blood was .01.
Berry, who is a school behavioral therapist, was officially charged with DUI in municipal court causing her to fear that her career could be affected by the charges.
Berry, who has no priors, was later released from custody. She was forced to spend several hundred dollars, miss workdays, and complete classes due to the event.
It took Berry 2-months of fighting, and more than just financial backlash before a judge dismissed and closed the case, for which the charges remain on the woman’s legal record despite the dismissal.
A defense attorney who was interviewed, but is not affiliated with Berry or her case, said that on occasion situations like this can sometimes arise when officers are trained to hone in on a specific offense. He posited that if one is trying to find something specific they are more likely to perceive its presence in lieu of considering other elements that may come into play that cause the same traits to present.
Berry has filed a complaint against the Phoenix Police Department, but she said it is not so that she can retaliate. She does not wish the officer any reprimanding, but she wants officers to receive crisis prevention instruction so that they may better understand how to deal with situations such as hers. She further believes that since they are the “one with all the power” when they interact with their suspects it seems as if it should be encouraged that they do it with compassion.
If you or someone you love is suspected of a DUI offense, contact Orange County criminal defense lawyer Staycie R. Sena at (949) 477-8088 for a consultation now.