Kennewick man files claim saying he was falsely arrested for DUI

A 52-year-old Kennewick man has filed a claim against the city of Kennewick after he said he was falsely arrested for DUI and his truck was towed.

Ron Striver blamed the incident on a malfunctioning breathalyzer used on him last Saturday by a Kennewick police reserve officer on patrol.

He was stopped at 10th Avenue and Johnson Street around 5:30 p.m. Saturday for reportedly running a red light -- Striver said it was yellow when he went through -- and that's when the problem started.

The officer said he smelled alcohol and asked Striver if he had been drinking. Striver said he had one beer with lunch maybe two hours earlier. The officer then had Striver blow into the breathalyzer machine and it registered 0.15 percent -- nearly double the legal 0.08 limit.

Striver, who had his two daughters, ages 10 and 12, with him, said he was adamant he wasn't drunk. He agreed to perform field sobriety tests, which he said he passed. When he blew in the machine again, it again registered 0.15, and he was arrested. Striver said he also was cited for two counts of child endangerment.

The officer then took Striver to Columbia Park, where the Washington State Patrol's Mobile DUI was processing DUI arrests. When he took the test there, it came up 0.00.

When the trooper told the officer the results of the breath test, "everything went away. They tore up all the tickets right on the spot," Striver said.

But, he still had to pay $216 to get his truck out of the tow yard, which meant he wasn't able to take his kids to the Silverwood Theme Park near Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, the following day.

And, he said, his daughters had to go through the ordeal of seeing him being wrongly arrested.

He filed a claim with the city to get his money back, and said he plans to talk to an attorney to see what recourse he has.

Kennewick police Sgt. Ken Lattin told the Herald that the improper reading on the preliminary breath test machine occurred because the officer didn't follow the 15-minute wait rule.

When a breath test is given, there has to be a 15-minute observation time when no food or drink or anything is done, Lattin said. Striver had been smoking a cigarette just before blowing into the machine, which caused the error, Lattin explained.

"There was still probable cause to make the arrest in spite of the false reading," Lattin said. "There was other evidence."

Lattin said Striver wasn't arrested, but he was detained for the investigation and was in handcuffs and not free to leave.

State law also mandates police impound vehicles when a driver is detained for suspected DUI.

"They had to impound it," Lattin said. "But we're going to pay the bill. He will get reimbursed."

Fortunately for Striver, he agreed to take the test when he was being processed. If he had refused, he would have been jailed and his license would have automatically been suspended.

"When you sign your driver's license ... what you're promising is if you're stopped and an officer suspects of you driving impaired, you will submit to a breath test," Lattin said.

Striver said he called a number of defense attorneys before taking the test and when one attorney finally called back, the attorney told him to take the test.

Striver wondered how many other people had a similar experience during Water Follies weekend, but Lattin said it was a one-time incident caused by the cigarette smoke. The machine, which is checked and recalibrated every six months, was taken out of service after the incident to be repaired, Lattin said.

Police supervisors also plan to follow up with a training reminder about how to properly administer the preliminary breath tests.

"The officer just didn't wait the 15 minutes," Lattin said. "But we made the situation as right as we could."

-- Paula Horton: 582-1556; phorton@tricityherald.com