DUI arrestee sues Phila. and police officer for false arrest related to faulty Breathalyzer reading

Jon Campisi Jan. 30, 2012, 8:36am

A motorist who claims he was arrested for, and subsequently convicted of, driving under the influence of alcohol is suing the City of Philadelphia and the officer who took him into custody, blaming a faulty machine for improperly calculating his blood-alcohol level at the time he was arrested.

Philadelphia resident Anthony Spina blames a false Breathalyzer reading for his arrest on DUI charges on Jan. 26, 2010, an arrest that initially landed him in jail for two days, and subsequently caused him to spend more time in prison.

In his lawsuit, filed Jan. 25 at federal court in Philadelphia by Jenkintown, Pa. attorney Marc A. Weinberg, Spina claims that the defendant, Officer Brian W. Hartzell, should have known the Breathalyzer machines the police department was using at the time were experiencing a rash of problems relating to faulty readings.

The suit claims that Hartzell arrested Spina based upon the “defective and/or improperly calibrated” breath-reading machine.

Spina had been pulled over while driving near the intersection of 2nd and Christian streets in South Philadelphia.

On Sept. 1, 2010, “based upon the false pretext created by the Defendants,” Spina was convicted of DUI and sentenced to 48 hours to six months imprisonment, the lawsuit states.

In the end, he ended up spending another two days in jail, in addition to the time he was initially held after his arrest.

“The detainment of Plaintiffs committed by Defendants as well as the actions leading up to the detainment was done with the intent and purpose of humiliating and embarrassing Plaintiff in the presence of the public in general,” the lawsuit states.

As a result of the incident, the lawsuit claims, Spina suffered “severe degradation,” humiliation, embarrassment, emotional stress, anxiety, extreme fear and paranoia upon seeing a police officer, damage to his reputation, and an inability to carry out his usual activities.

The complaint alleges that Spina has also lost earnings and has incurred various financial expenses related to his ordeal.

The lawsuit contains constitutional claims, and accuses the defendants of false arrest and false imprisonment, in addition to infliction of emotional distress.

Spina demands judgment against the defendants in a sum in excess of $100,000, plus costs, interest, attorney fees and delay damages.

A jury trial has been demanded.

The federal case number is 2:12-cv-00408-ER.

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