LOCAL NEWS

Woman Who Says She Was Arrested For ‘Driving While Black’ Settles With Murray City For $152K

Jul 16, 2021, 11:30 AM | Updated: 11:33 am

MURRAY, Utah — A Utah woman said she feels vindicated after reaching a $152,000 settlement in a civil rights lawsuit against the Murray Police Department.

Donna Miller, 62, alleges she was held for several hours and forced to undergo sobriety tests on an officer’s baseless suspicions, which she felt boiled down to a racial bias.

City officials allege the officer did nothing wrong, emphasizing the pricey settlement isn’t an admittance of guilt. But Miller and the ACLU of Utah said this is a step toward repairing a major wrong.

“I got me a single parent scholarship to Ensign College,” Miller said.

Miller said moving to Utah was like a dream come true.

“I always wanted to be a nurse-midwife so I took that opportunity to come out,” Miller said.

But that all changed in August 2018, when she said an officer pulled her over, alleging she did not have insurance.

“I was like, ‘No, I have insurance.’ So I took my insurance out and I showed it to him, and he says, ‘Well, I have reason to think that you are under the influence,’ and he says get out of the car and give me your keys,” Miller said.

From there Miller underwent several sobriety tests and was eventually arrested and taken to the Murray police building for more testing, which her attorneys said she passed successfully. An assisting Utah Highway Patrol trooper also conducted an extensive analysis concluding, “It is my opinion Ms. Miller was not under the influence of any drugs,” according to his report.

A blood test later confirmed these results finding “no measurable amount of drugs in her system.”

Nevertheless, Miller spent multiple hours in custody undergoing more sobriety tests. She was eventually cited for driving under the influence.

“Living in Utah most of my community and my friends are white women, and they were like, ‘This would never have happened to me — are you kidding me?’” Miller said.

A $152,000 settlement was recently reached in a civil rights lawsuit alleging Miller’s arrest was racially motivated.

“I knew that I was innocent from day one, and I felt like right away, I knew I was being arrested because of the color of my skin,” Miller said.

Yet attorney Heather White, who is representing the city of Murray in the case, said the settlement has nothing to do with admitting guilt as no judgment was made on the officer’s actions.

“She claimed she was pulled because she black, and that is not the case,” White said, alleging the officer pulled Miller over because he observed “her drift at least four times outside her lane of travel.” Concerned, White said the officer initiated a traffic stop.

Furthermore, White said the city chose to cut their losses saying it would be much more expensive to fight the lawsuit – and they didn’t have the body cam footage to prove the officer’s points. According to White, the officer was on his way to work and did not have a body camera on him. His patrol unit captured the exchange after the stop but not the car swerving from lane to lane, White said.

“The difficulty with the case is people expect that there is going to be the recording showing everything that happened, and if there isn’t a recording, then they view what officers say with some level of being suspect and it makes things more difficult and it becomes very expensive to go through the process,” White said, adding the emotional toll of the process was a factor.

And city officials are standing behind the officer, who is still on the job.

“The city’s position is that it’s supportive of the officer … he did everything right,” White said.

White said the city had racial bias training for officers in the works since early 2018 and said Miller’s case had no bearing on their decision.

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Woman Who Says She Was Arrested For ‘Driving While Black’ Settles With Murray City For $152K