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Lawsuit settled for woman 'driving while black' in Murray City

Posted at 12:05 PM, Jul 14, 2021

MURRAY, Utah — A civil rights lawsuit filed against the Murray City Police Department was settled for $152,000 on behalf of a 62 year-old Black woman who accused an officer of racial bias.

During a 2018 traffic stop, Donna Miller was arrested due to the officer's claims that she was driving under the influence. Miller's license was also suspended and her car was seized.

"I was scared. I was very scared,” said Miller.

The 62-year-old grandmother was driving away from the Fashion Place Mall when she says Officer Jarom Allred pulled her over for not having valid insurance in 2018. When she showed him proof, Officer Allred suspected the Miller was intoxicated. The Latter-day Saint member says she’s never consumed alcohol or drugs.

"When he said that, I looked at him like he’s lost his mind. Like totally lost his mind. Like, where are you coming up with this crazy from,” said Miller.

Despite passing multiple sobriety tests, Allred searched her car and arrested her for DUI. The officer was not wearing a body camera and the dash camera video of the incident is “incomplete”. Yet, Officer Allred’s statement was included in the lawsuit.

She was held for three hours at the police station, where she passed a battery of ten additional tests, including a blood test checking for eight illegal substances, which likewise came back negative.

According to the lawsuit, the arresting officer said she was a regular marijuana user to justify the DUI arrest.

“There is little or no evidence of a crime in this case. If you look at the facts, there is no evidence of a DUI but that is being prosecuted anyway,” said ALCU Utah smart justice attorney Jason Growth.

“No one should have to experience the humiliation and degradation that I did simply because I was ‘driving while Black’,” said Miller in the lawsuit.

“I want my example to show Murray and other cities and police departments across Utah that racism is real and convince them to train their police officers to see and stop racial bias while doing their jobs.”

Ms. Miller was forced to hire a lawyer to dismiss the wrongful charges, pay fines and expenses, reinstate her driver’s license, and clear her record even after Murray City dropped all charges against her.

Shortly after the lawsuit was filed in June 2020, Murray City announced it was increasing the frequency of implicit bias training for its police officers to an annual basis.

While the city settled the lawsuit, their attorney says Murray City nor Officer Murray admit wrongdoing and believe the entire encounter was lawful. Adding, had there been complete video footage, the outcome would have been different. The charges against Miller were eventually dropped when a blood test showed no intoxication.

“We believe when the officer saw Ms Miller at the stoplight, there was no reason to follow her other than she was black and driving,” said Growth.

“I want to show the positive story and heal from all of this trauma. Just go on with my life and enjoy my grandkids,” said Miller.

The city argues Allred pulled over Miller for driving in and out of her lane and say he didn’t violate policy.

An ACLU study found Black people are nearly five times more likely to be arrested in Utah for possessing marijuana than white people.

"Sadly, cases like Ms. Miller’s are all too common in Utah,” said Jason Groth, Smart Justice Attorney at the ACLU of Utah. “Data shows Black people are 4.7 times more likely to be arrested in Salt Lake County for alleged possession of marijuana than white people.

"And based on the allegations in this case, it’s easy to see how racial bias drives these numbers upward.”