If it's your word against a cop's, you're usually shit out of luck. Make that chance of winning even more laughably pitiful if you were three sheets to the wind at the time of your infraction. Hell, even if there's video documenting that you were fairly cooperative and an officer was totally out of line, the likelihood of swaying authorities into rewarding you anything beyond a dismissal of your charges is nil.
Unless, that is, you're Linda Leone, one very persuasive woman who had a rather unpleasant ordeal in Belmar, New Jersey. In that case, you just might find a judge agreeing that you were in the right, even if you were falling-down-drunk during your interaction with the police. In fact, that might be the very reason that Leone has won the right to file a lawsuit against the officers who arrested her.
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Way back on April 22, 2010, Leone—for unknown reasons—decided to get utterly shitfaced at 7 AM. Bad breakup, lost her job, serious drinking problem; who knows. That morning, she had four double screwdrivers in the span of an hour, then hopped in her car and took off. Because she was driving "very erratically" after her pre-brunch binge, Patrolman Michael R. Allen and Sergeant Sean R. Pringle were called to track her down, and soon found her pulled over with the engine off but her car transmission still in drive.
Allen noted in his report that she reeked of booze, had "substantially slurred" speech, and was "incoherent" and "slobbering." Needless to say, she couldn't pass any of the field sobriety tests, or even get out of her car and walk normally. Allen and Pringle hauled her off in their paddy wagon.
When she got to the station, officers left Leone on a folding chair, which she proceeded to fall off of multiple times while her paperwork was filled out and processed. Allen and Pringle helped her back onto the chair, but she once again slumped off of it and onto the hard floor. Finally, they let her just sleep on the floor for a while, seeing as the whole "upright" thing didn't seem to be happening. They woke her up and tried to give her an alcohol breath test, but she kept sucking on the mouthpiece instead of blowing into it, so they charged her with refusal. The following afternoon, they sent her on her way.
Although Leone was totally blacked out at the time she was arrested, she visited a hospital two days after the incident and was told that her hip had been fractured multiple times and would require surgery.
So what did Leone do? Sue the cops, of course, under the claim that the officers failed to exercise reasonable care of her during her time in custody, alleging negligence on behalf of the local police department and failure to provide adequate facilities and equipment to ensure her safety in the state of extreme drunkenness. Although she first filed the lawsuit in April 2012, it was initially thrown out by a lower court judge who rejected an export report presented by Leone's legal team outlining the ways that they could have prevented her from bodily injury, such as restraining her in a bed or on a chair.
But earlier this month, Judges Mitchel E. Ostrer and Michael J. Haas overturned the previous ruling in an appeals court decision and determined that the lawsuit can proceed.
Belmar mayor Matt Doherty is pissed.
"This is completely ridiculous and a waste of taxpayers' dollars that we have to defend the police officers in this lawsuit," Doherty told the Asbury Park Press. "If she can sue over this, where is the line? People have to take responsibility for their own actions."
But hey, this is America. Land of the free, home of the lawsuit-happy. And it could be worse: She could be suing her her 12-year-old nephew for hugging her too enthusiastically.