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Boyer v. Carter

United States District Court, D. Utah, Central Division

June 27, 2018

JONATHAN ANDY BOYER, Plaintiff,
v.
CHAD CARTER, a Utah Highway Patrol Trooper, in his individual capacity, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          DEE BENSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment. [Dkt. 28]. The motion has been fully briefed by both parties. The Court finds oral argument unnecessary. Based upon the parties' written arguments and on the relevant facts and the law, the Court enters this Memorandum Decision and Order.

         BACKGROUND

         On the night of August 7, 2015, Plaintiff, Jonathan Andy Boyer was driving on Interstate 15 when one of the tires on his car became flat. [Dkt. 28 ¶2]. Mr. Boyer pulled over to the side of the freeway and called the Utah Highway patrol for assistance. [Id. at ¶5]. He told dispatch that he was located near 5300 South on I-15. [Id. at ¶6]. Defendant, Trooper Chad Carter, went to that location to assist him but Mr. Boyer was not in the vicinity. He eventually located Mr. Boyer in his car off the side of I-15 near 8600 South. He pulled behind the car, which was elevated by a jack, and turned on his rear-facing lights. [Id. at ¶10]. It was about eleven o'clock at night and lightly raining. The police car dashcam video of the encounter which is the subject of this action, was submitted and has been viewed by the Court.

         As Trooper Carter approached the car, Mr. Boyer rolled down his window and told him that he needed help changing his tire. [Id. at ¶11]. He said he did not have the right tools so Trooper Carter offered to let him use his. [Id. at ¶12]. Mr. Boyer said that he told dispatch he was at 5300 South but that he actually was not sure where he was. He said he and his wife, who was in the passenger seat, were on their way home from the Desert Edge Brewery. [Id. at ¶13]. As Trooper Carter, a certified drug recognition expert, talked to Mr. Boyer, he noticed that his eyes were blood shot and when he rolled down his window, he smelled what the trooper believed was an odor of an alcoholic beverage. [Id. at ¶14, 20]. When Trooper Carter told Mr. Boyer that he smelled like alcohol, Mr. Boyer responded, “Oh, I do?” [Id. at ¶28].

         Trooper Carter instructed Mr. Boyer to move his car farther away from the concrete wall on the side of the freeway to allow adequate room to change the tire. [Id. at ¶23]. Mr. Boyer did so without first removing the jack which was under the passenger side of the vehicle, causing the car to fall from its perch. Trooper Carter noticed that Mr. Boyer did in fact have the tools for changing tires that came with the car. As he changed the tire using Trooper Carter's tools, the trooper became concerned about Mr. Boyer's coordination and faculties. For instance, he began putting the spare tire on backward until Trooper Carter corrected him. [Id. at ¶ 24]. His speech was somewhat slow and sounded slurred. After the tire was changed, Mr. Boyer put the flat tire in his trunk. Trooper Carter asked to see Mr. Boyer's drivers license because by that time he was suspicious that Mr. Boyer may be impaired. [Id. at ¶¶25-26]. Trooper Carter testified at his deposition about some of the indications upon which he based his suspicion that Mr. Boyer may have been under the influence:

A. [He] had poor coordination. It seemed too difficult for him to change the tire.
Q. Explain that for me. What do you mean?
A. First off, I noted that he had the tool kit that came with the car, he had the tire iron that came with the car, but he told me that it was the wrong size or something. When he used my star wrench, my star wrench has four sockets on it, each a different size. He tried each socket twice before he found the correct size. So he tried one size, tried the next size, tried the next size, tried the next size. Do you know what I mean?
Finally he found the correct socket, but every time he tried to take off the next lug nut he would hit the rubber of the wheel, of the tire. He would hit the hub cap. He would make contact with the lug nut but miss; you know what I mean? It took him several tries to even get the wrench onto the lug nut properly before he was able to take it off. That happened with all of the lug nuts. After that - Q. Do you remember how many lug nuts there were?
A. I don't. Probably five. After that he removed the flat tire and went to put the spare tire on but he started putting it on backwards. And he even started tightening one of the lug nuts on the hold before I told him that it was on backwards, and then he turned it around and put it back on. He had poor coordination in that similar manner throughout the entire stop I had with him.
At one point he - when I arrived on scene he had like the jack that came with the car up underneath the car. And it was supporting some of the car's weight, and then there wasn't enough room between the car and the concrete wall for my star wrench to fit in there. So I told him that he had to make more room for that by reversing the car and backing further away from the wall. I don't think I had ever seen that the jack was under the car at that point. I think he had told me but I had forgotten. He reversed with the jack still under and the car kind of fell down.

[Id. at ¶29].

         Regarding Trooper Carter's observance of Mr. Boyer's slurred speech, Mr. Boyer testified at his deposition that he does have a speech impediment for which he has received speech therapy in the past. At his deposition, he stated, “I might sound like I have a frog in my throat or possibly that I need ...


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