Police Officer Causes Accident – Then Wrongfully Arrests Victim for Drunk Driving

Finebloom, Haenel & Higgins

In Wisconsin in February 2013, an accident between a young woman and a police officer turned in to a legal battle to clear that young woman’s name after the officer who caused the crash claimed she had been drinking.  25-year-old Tanya Weyker was arrested for drinking and driving after being seriously injured in a car accident with police officer Joseph Quiles who ran a stop sign.  The officer, and other officers at the scene, claimed that Weyker smelled of alcohol and had bloodshot and glassy eyes.  She told officers at the scene that she only had a sip of alcohol from a friend’s drink and that she had taken a Vicodin for her wisdom teeth more than a week before.  The police were unable to do a breathalyzer or any other field sobriety test because of Weyker’s injuries, but blood was drawn at the hospital.

Weyker was arrested for driving while under the influence and guards were placed at her doors at the hospital.  Although the officer involved in the accident claimed that he properly stopped at a stop sign and that he did not see Weyker because her lights weren’t on, evidence soon proved this was not the case.  Surveillance video showed that the officer ran through the stop sign and the type of car that Weyker was driving automatically had its headlights on whenever it was turned on.  However, the evidence of the tape was not disclosed to Weyker.

Months later, after the blood test results came back showing that Weyker had no drugs or alcohol in her system, the prosecutor dropped the charges against Weyker.  However, Weyker was not informed of this and she believed for nearly a year that she may go to jail.  At the same time, the police department was going against her for damages caused by the accident; still claiming it was her fault.

Weyker has medical bills from the accident that may top one million dollars because of a broken neck.  The officer who hit her got minor injuries, yet is claiming he is permanently disabled and has not gone back to work since the accident.  He was punished for failing to follow traffic rules in the accident and causing damage to department property, but has not had any punishment for saying that he properly stopped at the stop sign when he didn’t or by claiming Weyker was drunk when she wasn’t.

Unfortunately for Weyker, suits against government agencies are capped at $250,000 in damages in Wisconsin.  However, there is a strong likelihood that she may file a civil rights suit in federal court.  This suit, also called a 1983 suit, would be against the officer, police department and city, and would be for depriving Weyker of her civil rights while acting under the color of the law.  This means that police authority was used to deprive her of her civil rights.  In this case that was by charging her with drinking and driving to cover up the true cause of the crash.  Because this would be a federal case, there would be no cap on damages, meaning that she could collect a significant amount of money.