DUI arrests of Fort Collins police officer under scrutiny after man says he was wrongfully arrested

A Loveland man says a Fort Collins police officer falsely arrested him in April for drunk driving while sober.

Derrick Groves, 36, was driving to his home in Loveland from a friend’s house in Fort Collins on April 7 when he drove off the road along a steep causeway just south of the intersection of Taft Hill and Trilby roads, according to the arrest statement. in the business.

The arresting officer, Jason Haferman, wrote in the arrest affidavit that “Groves had bloodshot eyes, glassy eyes and his pupils appeared to be different sizes.” Haferman said Groves also pointed in the wrong direction when asked where he was from.

Groves denied using drugs or alcohol prior to driving. He said he was driving his Tesla with auto-steering engaged, and when he looked at his phone, he took a hand off the steering wheel, causing the car to overcorrect and sending it into the ditch, Groves’ attorney Matthew Haltzman said in a statement. interview with the Coloradoan.

“It was an overcorrection, that’s all,” Haltzman said. “…By the time Jason Haferman got to the scene, it was a DUI investigation.”

Groves took part in the eye portion of the roadside test, according to the arrest documents, and Haferman claimed he didn’t complete them like a sober person would. Groves was arrested and agreed to a blood test.

Two months later, the results confirmed what Groves said he had repeatedly told Haferman the night of his arrest: He was sober. No drugs or alcohol were found in his bloodstream.

The prosecutor’s office dismissed the drunk driving charge in this case on June 14, according to court documents. Groves is still facing a traffic violation for careless driving.

“He is extremely traumatized by this,” Haltzman said of Groves. “There’s a real weight that he carried out of this and I think he will live with that for the rest of his life.”

‘An alarming pattern’

Now Groves plans to sue Fort Collins and Haferman police for falsely arresting him for DUI, alleging that Haferman had no evidence that Groves was intoxicated that night and that Haferman has a history of embellishing facts at the crime scene. making DUI arrests, Haltzman said.

No lawsuit has been filed yet because they are still collecting information, Haltzman said. Since becoming aware of the Groves case, Haltzman said several other similar incidents involving Haferman have come to light.

The 8th Judicial District Attorney’s Office and the Fort Collins Police Department both say they are investigating other cases that question Haferman’s credibility.

Police have identified nine other cases involving Haferman with blood tests that came back with no alcohol or drugs in the suspect’s blood, according to a social media post from the Fort Collins Police Department. According to the police, five of those cases involved accidents with injuries and/or material damage.

Fort Collins police officers made 504 DUI arrests in 2021, and in 11 of those cases — 2.2% — blood test results came back with no drugs or alcohol found, spokesman Kate Kimble said. Haferman was involved in 191 of the DUI arrests last year, either as a chief arrest officer or in support of the DUI investigation.

Of the 11 Fort Collins police cases where blood test results came back with no alcohol or drugs detected, Haferman was involved in eight, Kimble said.

“This isn’t the first case, and it probably won’t be the last if Haferman is allowed to continue,” Haltzman said, adding that Groves’ case is part of “an alarming pattern.”

The 8th District Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement that they are reviewing several recent DUI cases involving Haferman, in which no alcohol or drugs were detected in blood tests.

In a ruling in a separate DUI case brought by Judge Sarah Cure in March, Cure found that Haferman “is not credible” because “his testimony was inconsistent” and “unsupported by the evidence”.

While this ruling did not meet the criteria for issuing a Brady notice — which is required when a law enforcement officer has a proven track record of knowingly lying in an official capacity — spokesman Jodi Lacey shared in a statement that the office of the district attorney all attorneys of Cure’s finding.

“We also became aware of several recent cases where Officer Haferman was the first officer where the toxicology results did not support the allegations of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and immediately began reviewing these cases,” the statement said.

Fort Collins Police Department was notified of these matters and Kimble confirmed that an internal investigation is underway.

“We’re looking at each of those cases (where the blood test is negative for drugs and alcohol) to make sure we’re working properly,” Chief Jeff Swoboda said in a video statement on the department’s Facebook page. June 15.

The district attorney’s office stated that Haferman’s behavior needs to improve to ensure their office can continue to file charges in cases involving him.

“An unnecessary arrest is simply unacceptable,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement. “The District Attorney’s Office will scrutinize any case involving Officer Haferman to verify his investigations. While we do not believe these cases are a reflection of FCPS as a whole, we have communicated our disappointment with the specific cases to FCPS …here where some of the arrests may have been unjustified and our concerns about the community impact.”

The Challenges of DUI Testing

Both the District Attorney’s Office and the Fort Collins Police Department stated that it is still possible that someone may have been under the influence of a substance, even if the blood test is negative.

Blood tests in DUI cases are analyzed by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, but that test doesn’t screen for every harmful substance, police say. For example, the test, which screens 14 categories of common drugs, cannot screen for aerosol inhalants, which are rapidly metabolized. Some synthetic street drugs may also not show up on these tests, police said.

Over-the-counter and prescription drugs are also not detected in the baseline blood tests, Swoboda said in a video statement shared on social media.

More in-depth drug and alcohol screening is done in the most serious suspected drink-driving cases — such as vehicular assault or homicide investigations — but these specialized tests are too expensive to do in every drink-driving investigation, the report said. police in a post on social media. Each of these tests costs $400 to $700, which amounts to up to $250,000 per year, depending on the number of drugs tested in each case, police say.

CBI blood test results may take weeks or months to come back, police said.

Breath or blood tests aren’t done until someone is arrested on suspicion of drink-driving, meaning officers must determine the likely cause of a drink-related arrest before those tests are performed. Fort Collins Police said their officers are trained to identify other indications that someone has a disability based on their driving, physical indications of a disability and completing the field sobriety test — if the driver chooses to participate because the test is voluntary.

Swoboda said in a video statement that just because a blood test result in a suspected DUI case is negative for drugs or alcohol doesn’t mean it was “bad policing.”

“Our officers are in regular contact with people who use or abuse drugs who do not appear on those panels,” Swoboda said.

The prosecutor’s office stated that – despite the possibility that someone may be under the influence of an undetectable substance – they are dismissing the charges because without a positive blood test the case would be unlikely to lead to a conviction. Dismissing charges for which there is no evidence is also important to protect innocent individuals, the statement said.

Kimble said it is possible that someone could be convicted of drink-driving or driving with impaired ability if their blood test result is negative because some substances are not screened in that test.

But Haltzman said it’s not the test that’s the problem and the department needs to take responsibility.

“The first thing they do is blame the test,” Haltzman said. “… That’s not the responsibility we’ve been promised in this community.”

All suspects are innocent until proven guilty in court. Arrests and charges are only charges by law enforcement until and unless a suspect is convicted of a crime. All persons charged with misconduct are presumed innocent until any internal investigations are completed.

Sady Swanson covers public safety, criminal justice, the Larimer County government, and more throughout Northern Colorado. You can send your story ideas to her at [email protected] or on Twitter at @sadyswan. Support her work and that of other Colorado journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.

This article originally appeared on Fort Collins Coloradoan: Fort Collins police officer charged with false arrest for drink-driving

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