Trucker files suit, claiming he was jailed, not charged, for 17 days

By Clarissa Kell-Holland, Land Line staff writer | 6/10/2013

A truck driver has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the county, the county jail and the sheriff’s office, all in Box Elder County, Utah. The complaint? The trucker says he spent more than 17 days in jail and was denied access to an attorney and was not charged with a crime.

In his complaint, Robert Kuchcinski claims he was traveling southbound on Interstate 15 near Tremonton, Utah, on June 16, 2012, when he “reached across the cab of the tractor to retrieve an item causing the truck to drift out of the lane of travel.”

Kuchcinski said he quickly corrected his mistake and re-entered his lane, but not before a motorist called 911 to report seeing him drift out of his lane.

About five to 10 minutes later, he was stopped by Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Eric Ellsworth, who cited Kuchcinski for “failure to stay in one lane.” According to court documents, Kuchcinski was asked to take a breathalyzer, which he did. Kuchcinski stated that after administering the test, Trooper Ellsworth read the results and “muttered something to the effect of, ‘Well, that can’t be right.’”

Kuchcinski was then ordered out of his truck and asked to perform field sobriety tests. According to court documents, of all of the tests performed, “the only ones that indicated possible intoxication were those directly related to balance.”

At the time he was stopped, Kuchcinski was being treated for a severe inner ear infection, which can cause “substantial degradation of balance.”

Despite Kuchcinski’s medical condition explanation, Trooper Ellsworth arrested him on suspicion of driving while impaired and sent him to the Box Elder County Jail for processing and detention. At that time, he also provided a blood sample.

“From that time until 17 days later, (Kuchcinski) remained incarcerated in the Box Elder County Jail,” according to the complaint. “At no time was he brought before a judge for arraignment and at no time was he formally charged with any crime other than the traffic citation, a mere infraction. Likewise, he was not afforded an opportunity to confer with counsel.”

On or about July 2, 2012, Kuchcinski asked a Box Elder County deputy when he would “be allowed to see a judge.”

According to the complaint, “The deputy responded to the effect, ‘What did your lawyer tell you?” At which time, Kuchcinski responded that he hadn’t been allowed to contact an attorney yet. The next day he was released after being allowed to confer with an attorney.

Besides not being able to work for 17 days because he was incarcerated, Kuchcinski was fired from his truck driving job because he “was arrested for suspicion of driving while impaired.”

His defense attorney, W. Earl Webster, of the law firm Harward and Associates, stated in the complaint that he received the results of both Kuchcinski’s breathalyzer test, which was 0.00 percent, and his blood analysis test, which were all “negative for all controlled substances and all other potentially impairing substances for which testing had been performed.”

In his complaint, Kuchcinski claims his constitutional rights were violated because he was denied a speedy trial, notice of nature and cause of accusation, right to counsel, and due process of the law, as well as false imprisonment and violations of state law that allow for bail hearing and arraignment.

In his complaint, Kuchcinski is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, as well as the cost of his attorney fees and expert witness fees.

On June 10, Box Elder County Attorney Stephen Hadfield told Land Line he was aware that the lawsuit had been filed. However, he has not read through it yet because the county has not been officially served with the complaint.

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