A woman has filed a lawsuit against the city of Anchorage after a police officer falsely arrested her on grounds of drunk driving.
The case dates back to November of 2011, when Nancy Means, then 18, and three high school friends had gone out shopping late on Black Friday.
According to the Anchorage Daily News, Officer David Burns saw a disabled snow-covered minivan with hazard lights flashing at 3:40 am, and pulled over to investigate the situation.
In his report, Burns said that he “smelled the slight odor of alcohol coming from her.” He asked Means for her license and registration, which she handed over.
He then asked her for her phone number, which Means refused to give him. As she described in her lawsuit, she saw the request as an “untoward sexual advance.” She refused to answer any further questions without her lawyer.
The lawsuit continues on to describe the officer’s request for Means’ number as a “departure from routine procedure for an officer contacting a stranded and disabled vehicle.”
Burns then arrested Means on the ground of driving under the influence, escorted her to a police car, and impounded the van, which belonged to her father.
When Officer Thomas Gaulke tested Means’ breath at the police station less than an hour later, he noted that he neither smelled any alcohol on the young woman, nor did he see any signs that she was intoxicated.
Her blood alcohol level was .000.
Means was released, and city prosecutors decided not to prosecute the case several weeks later, on December 21.
On the day the case closed, Means’ father, Norman Means, argued that Burns had no probable cause to seize his vehicle; the hearing officer agreed, noting that “there were no reports of seeing Ms. Means driving in a manner that would suggest she was driving under the influence.”
However, as noted by KTUU, Means’ arrest for an unspecified misdemeanor charge is still on court records, which means that it is also still publically accessible on the internet. Her lawyer has submitted a letter to the city requesting that Means’ criminal charge be sealed.
Municipal Attorney Dennis Wheeler has said that he stands behind Burns, and that the city is prepared to mount a “vigorous defense” if sued.
Now, what remains central to the debate between the two opposing parties is, quite simply, what crime it is that Means committed that night in 2011.
Photo Source: newsday.com