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Trucking People
The cost of justice
Trucker files civil rights suit after being held in jail despite a 0.00 blood alcohol test

By Coral Beach
staff editor

A 74-year-old South Carolina trucker who spent several months and thousands of dollars fighting DUI and drug charges that were eventually dropped has filed a federal lawsuit alleging that police in Alabama falsely imprisoned him.

Victor Angeline was hauling a load of emergency hurricane relief supplies on Nov. 3, 2005, when police pulled him over on Interstate 65 near the Alford Avenue Exit in Hoover, AL. The police had reportedly received a call about a trucker driving erratically in the area.

In a suit alleging that his constitutional rights were violated, Angeline contends his truck was illegally searched and that he was falsely arrested and imprisoned. The case was filed Feb. 13 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. Trial has been scheduled for May 2008.

The 17-page lawsuit also states that the police used excessive force and that Angeline – who was 73 at the time – was subjected to “harmful or offensive touching” by the arresting officers.

It was just minutes before 11 a.m. on Nov. 3, 2005, when Angeline was restrained at the roadside and handcuffed.

Hoover Police Officer Nina Monosky and her partner – whose identity Angeline’s attorney was still trying to determine when the federal civil rights case was filed – accused Angeline of being drunk and then searched his truck. The officers found a sleep medication, which was several months old and mostly unused. It had been prescribed for Angeline after the death of his mother.

A trucker for more than 30 years, Angeline watched as a wrecker towed his rig filled with hurricane relief supplies away from the scene. According to the lawsuit, Angeline repeatedly asked to take a breath test for alcohol at the roadside and after he was taken to jail.

His roadside requests were denied and Angeline, a Darlington, SC, resident, was arrested for suspicion of operating a vehicle under the influence. After he had been in custody for an hour, the police finally granted his request for a breath test.

The test showed his blood alcohol content to be 0.00.

Despite Angeline’s zero blood alcohol test result, Hoover police kept him in jail for another 35 hours. The trucker repeatedly denied being under the influence of drugs and repeatedly asked for a urine test to prove that. According to the lawsuit, police refused to test Angeline for drugs.

According to the lawsuit, while Angeline was being held in a jail cell, Hoover Police Officer Bruce Scarborough called the company Angeline was hauling for – Greentree Transportation Co. – and told company officials that Angeline had been incarcerated for driving under the influence, failing a sobriety test and illegal possession of drugs.

The lawsuit contends that Scarborough called Greentree officials after the trucker had blown 0.00 on the alcohol breath test.

The trucking company suspended Angeline’s contract, even though he had a career record of more than 4 million safe miles.

The Hoover police began proceedings to suspend Angeline’s driving privileges, which resulted in him being unable to obtain insurance and therefore kept him from trucking at all for several months.

During the months following his arrest, Angeline spent thousands of dollars to defend himself while his ability to earn a living was in limbo.

Finally, in February 2006, the drug charge was dismissed, but it took until May 2006 for the alcohol-related charge to be dismissed, even though the breath test showed Angeline’s blood alcohol content was 0.00.

Angeline is seeking a jury trial and monetary damages to pay for the legal fees he has incurred and to replace the income he lost as a result of the actions of the Hoover police. He is also asking for punitive damages to punish the police department, Police Chief Nicholas C. Derzis, the officers involved and the city of Hoover for allowing the “false arrest” and failing to take appropriate steps to remedy the situation.

coral_beach@landlinemag.com

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