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Another Northern Colorado Cop Accused of Busting Sober Drivers for DUI

Another Northern Colorado Cop Accused of Busting Sober Drivers for DUI

Just days after the March 30 filing of a lawsuit claiming that the Loveland Police Department was running a DUI scheme for "money and sport," Derrick Groves was arrested by Fort Collins Police Services Officer Jason Haferman for allegedly driving under the influence despite showing no signs of impairment — and the case was later dropped after a blood test came back clear of intoxicants.

Attorney Matthew Haltzman of Fort Collins-based Haltzman Law Firm, who represents Groves, is currently investigating the matter, and among other things, he's learned that a judge found problems with Haferman's testimony in a March DUI trial. This determination prompted the Larimer County District Attorney's office to issue a document about Haferman similar to a so-called Brady letter, which identifies certain law enforcement officers as suffering from possible credibility issues should they be called to testify at trial — although the DA's office disagrees with this conclusion.

Such discoveries suggest that what happened to Groves is "part of a broader practice," Haltzman says. "We're talking about a series of events and seeing them in multiple departments up in northern Colorado — and it's terrifying."

But Fort Collins Police Services pushes back in great detail about his assertions regarding the Groves case.

According to Haltzman, "Derrick reached out to my office shortly after he was arrested by Officer Haferman, and it wasn't the typical call I get. He said, 'I was arrested for DUI, but you should know that I was completely sober and there was nothing about me that was impaired — and I need your help.' And when I saw the body-worn-camera video, I was shocked by what I saw."

The incident had taken place on April 7. "Derrick was on his way home to his girlfriend, and he was driving a Tesla Model Y with beta Autosteer," Haltzman notes. "It's a Tesla product that essentially controls steering, and he admits that he looked at his phone screen because he had a call coming in — and when he did, the Autosteer overcorrected and he went over an embankment. He got out of his vehicle and two bystanders were there to help him."

Haferman and another FCPS officer responded to the incident, and both had active body-worn cameras. In Haltzman's view, "the videos show an individual with no signs of impairment or intoxication. They told Derrick that they were going to conduct tests to determine if he was impaired, and after he successfully completed a series of tests, they had a dialogue and he was told he was under arrest for DUI even though there wasn't a single thing we observed that would lead anyone to believe he was impaired. The two bystanders on the scene were interviewed, too, and when they asked them if he smelled like alcohol or was acting strangely, they said, 'No.'"

Here's body-worn-camera video of the interaction between Groves and the police, which begins just past the seventeen-minute mark.

And this video includes the witness interviews:

Nonetheless, the report Haferman submitted portrays the driver as obviously impaired. "l observed Groves had blood shot, glassy eyes, and his pupils appeared to be different sizes," he wrote — and even though "Groves denied consuming any drugs or alcohol prior to driving that night," Haferman stresses that he admitted to "using marijuana 5-6 days prior," and when officers searched the ride, they found "several CO2 cartridges, balloons, and receipts for THC products."

According to Haltzman, the marijuana Haferman referenced was an edible that Groves had consumed to help him sleep, and he had nothing illegal in his possession. Still, Haferman's report contends that the driver didn't complete "the eye portion of roadside maneuvers...as a sober person. Groves displayed Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus in both eyes and Lack of Convergence in both eyes." Haferman noted that Groves was on probation for a previous DUI at the time of his crash.

The results of the blood test Groves was given after he was taken to jail tell a very different story from the one offered by Haferman. "It came back zeros," Haltzman points out, "so the DA's office dismissed the case. But my client still had to take a blood test, he had to go to jail overnight, and the case was filed and prosecuted for two months before it was thrown out. You can imagine the stress and anxiety my client had because of that."

Since then, Haltzman says he's discovered three other cases in which drivers arrested by Haferman for DUI subsequently passed blood tests — and one of them is represented by Sarah Schielke of The Life & Liberty Law Office, who's pressing the Loveland lawsuit on behalf of her client, Harris Elias. And he also found the letter sent by the Larimer County DA's office regarding Haferman's testimony in a DUI trial, which includes this: "Fort Collins Police Officer Jason Haferman is a listed witness in your pending case. The purpose of this notice is to inform you that during the Court’s ruling in a bench trial on March 3, 2022, in Division 5C of the Larimer County District Court, Judge Sarah Cure found that Officer Haferman lacked credibility in his testimony regarding the contact and arrest of the defendant in that case."

The letter notes: "The District Attorney has not concluded this officer’s testimony was incredible, nor that any disclosure would be necessary based on his testimony alone, but as the judge made adverse findings related to his credibility, the District Attorney is providing this information pursuant to the broad mandates of...Brady v. Maryland," a 1963 U.S. Supreme Court case after which Brady letters are named.

When Westword provided Fort Collins Police Services with a summary of Haltzman's concerns (in italics), FCPS public-relations manager Kate Kimble responded.

The rest of the investigation of this sober individual is caught on body camera. There was no reasonable suspicion to conduct a DUI investigation, there is nothing to support probable cause and the officers' written observations are incontrovertibly disputed by the body camera footage.

An internal review will determine if the reports and video are in opposition. Generally speaking, in order to make a lawful DUI arrest, officers must establish probable cause based on indicators of impairment. The official breath or blood test isn't performed until after the arrest has been made. As immediate chemical results aren't available when they contact drivers, officers must rely on their observations to determine if a person is capable of safely operating a vehicle. This can include driving behaviors, physical indications of impairment, and field sobriety tests (if the person opts to perform them — these are voluntary). The officer must then use all of this information to decide if an arrest is appropriate based on the totality of the circumstances.

Mr. Groves was forced to accept a needle being jammed into his arm to prove his innocence. Under the Colorado Express Consent law, all licensed drivers in the state agree to take a breath or blood test if they're arrested for driving under the influence. Mr. Groves elected to complete the blood test. The blood test results came back with nothing in his system. This was totally consistent with what was captured in body-camera footage and with what officers observed — total sobriety.

DUI blood tests are sent to Colorado Bureau of Investigation for analysis. CBI uses a standard ELISA panel to test for fourteen categories of drugs. While this can detect some common substances, it isn't all-encompassing. For example, aerosol inhalants, which are often abused by people trying to get high, get metabolized extremely quickly and may not show up on a DUI blood test. The illicit drug industry has also evolved to produce synthetic street drugs, many of which aren't detected by the standard ELISA panel. It's not accurate to equate a non-detection result with a lack of probable cause to make an arrest.

In her response, Kimble also supplied a video about DUI investigations recorded by Chief of Police Jeff Swoboda.

Although Haferman is not currently a DUI enforcement officer, Kimble confirms that he "is currently employed as a police officer at FCPS. He served in the DUI enforcement officer role from May 2020-May 2022. This is a rotational position, and he returned to patrol at the conclusion of the assignment."

"Our investigation is still ongoing," Haltzman says. "But I don't see why we wouldn't file a claim."

Click to read Officer Jason Haferman's narrative about the Derrick Groves arrest, the 18th Judicial District DA's office letter about Haferman's credibility, and Harris Elias v. City of Loveland, et al.

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