A class-action lawsuit has been filed against the Utah Highway Patrol over alleged wrongful arrests for driving under the influence.
Three attorneys filed the complaint Friday in 3rd District Court on behalf of what they contend may be hundreds of Utahns who were wrongly arrested for drunken driving by former UHP Cpl. Lisa Steed and other troopers.
Lawyer Robert Sykes claimed Steed is among troopers who stopped motorists for minor traffic violations and then wrongly arrested them for DUI in an effort to make money for the state through fines and fees.
There was a “conspiracy within the highway patrol to propagate this kind of conduct,” Sykes alleged, and it was “condoned and covered up for many years.”
Department of Public Safety spokesman Dwayne Baird said the agency had not yet been served with the suit, and he couldn’t comment.
Sykes and attorneys Michael Studebaker and Lorenzo Miller say they have so far identified more than 30 individuals who may be added to the lawsuit and that the number could soar in coming months.
Thomas Romero and Julie Tapia, who were named as initial plaintiffs in the complaint, claim they were pulled over and arrested by Steed in 2011, but that all charges against them were later dropped because there was no evidence of alcohol in their systems. Both say they are teetotalers.
“I couldn’t understand why I was getting arrested when all I had was something to eat and a can of Pepsi,” Romero told The Salt Lake Tribune. “I told her she was making a big mistake.”
Steed was fired in November after she was accused of violating department policies, falsifying police reports and using questionable practices when making DUI arrests.
Steed, who was named 2007 trooper of the year based on some 200 DUI arrests that year, filed an appeal Friday in an effort to win back her job.
Her first appeal with the department was denied earlier this month, the Deseret News reported. Her second more formal appeal with the state was filed by her attorney, Greg Skordas.