RALEIGH, N.C. (WRAL) — An attorney in North Carolina says a police officer’s pat-down during a drunk driving arrest crossed a line.
The 26-year-old female driver had stopped to get gas in Raleigh in the early hours of Sept. 25 when officers surrounded her, told her they had observed her hitting some curbs and that they suspected she was impaired.
The driver was found to have a blood alcohol content of 0.15, almost twice the level at which a driver is considered impaired under North Carolina law.
On body-camera video, the driver is visible, in handcuffs, as Officer K.E. Van Althius searches her.
Attorney Karen Griffin received the video from the district attorney’s office as part of the evidence in the case.
“I’ve never seen a search that invasive,” she said.
“The officer touched my client in every way that a normal person, especially a woman, would not want to be touched by a man. He touched her breasts and shook them. He touched everywhere else around her private parts.”
Pete Rubino, who was a police officer for 30 years and is now the vice president of the Carolina Safety Resource Group, which consults with law enforcement agencies, agreed with Griffin’s evaluation.
“I’ve never seen an extensive search like that for a DWI,” he said. “If that officer really thinks it’s reasonable to do that, that officer may need to look at procedures again.”
But Griffin is convinced it’s about more than training. She sees a sexual assault.
Wake County district attorney Lorrin Freeman sees an uncomfortable situation, but not a crime.
“Searches are invasive by their nature, in order to make sure the officer is protected,” Freeman said. She noted that a weapon can be as small as a needle or a razor blade.
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