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Thursday, July 18, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Micronesian Officers Let DUI Slide, Court Rules

(CN) - Three Micronesian police officers violated a Korean woman's equal protection rights by refusing to investigate or arrest a Micronesian man on drunk driving charges after he crashed into her car, the 9th Circuit ruled.

Ae Ja Elliot-Park sued officers Jarrod Manglona, Michael Langdon and Anthony Macaranas for not charging Norbert Babauta with DUI after he sped through a turn and slammed into her car. Babauta was "teetering and slurring his words, he reeked of alcohol and had bloodshot eyes," according to the ruling.

When the officers arrived, Elliot-Park allegedly asked if she could call her husband and was shoved back into her car by Manglona, who told her to "shut up and calm down."

She said Babauta's truck bed was littered with beer cans, and Babauta even admitted to having "blacked out" while driving, but the officers didn't give him a sobriety test and failed to investigate whether he had been driving drunk.

A doctor who examined Elliot-Park and Babauta called the Department of Public Safety after learning that Babauta had not been charged with DUI. The department launched an investigation, and Elliot-Park filed suit, alleging racial and ethnic discrimination.

The officers claimed that she had not been denied equal protection, because they gave her "some police services," and only a complete withdrawal of protective service violates equal protection.

"But diminished police services, like the seat at the back of the bus, don't satisfy the government's obligation to provide services on a nondiscriminatory basis," Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote for the three-judge panel.

He said the officers are not entitled to qualified immunity.

Judge Consuelo Maria Callahan dissented in part, saying the majority "fails to recognize the deference courts have given, and should give, police departments in determining when and how to investigate crimes."

"I would hold that although defendants may have violated Elliot's right to equal protection of the law, they are entitled to qualified immunity because it would not have been clear to a reasonable officer that he or she was doing so."

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