Fault Lines
13 September 2017

Officer Kenneth Troost: The Recipe for DWI Arrests, Never Mind the Lies

July 11, 2016 (Fault Lines) — The recipe for a DWI arrest: observe a traffic violation, stop the driver, and opine as to an odor (usually a strong odor) of alcohol and the failing of field sobriety tests. A “drunk” is arrested, the officer is the hero, MADD is happy and gives the department more grants, and no one is the wiser. At least that’s what Houston Police officer Kenneth Troost believed. However, when he was caught lying about one or more of the ingredients of his prior DWI arrests, he was indicted and resigned his position.

DWI is all opinion anyway. And who isn’t going to believe the officer? The officer believes he observes a traffic violation: running a stop sign, turning or changing lanes without signaling, or even speeding. Any old violation will do. When the officer makes contact with the driver, he alleges a strong odor of alcohol, perhaps red bloodshot eyes, or both. This is enough to have the detained driver removed from the car for further investigation.

Then come the field sobriety tests: the pen test (HGN or horizontal gaze nystagmus), the one-leg stand (OLS), and walking a straight line (WAT or walk and turn). The officer “scores” each test and determines whether the driver passed or failed. Where there is no video, no breath test, or no blood test, a judge or jury is left with only the officer’s word or opinion to determine whether the driver was in fact driving while intoxicated.

Former officer Kenneth Troost said he pulled over Amy Charron because she failed to use her turn signal, was driving drunk, failed a field sobriety test and refused to consent to a blood test.

Troost also said his dashboard camera didn’t record the traffic stop.

Turns out there was dash-cam video of the traffic stop. Turns out Charron did not fail to signal her lane change. Turns out she actually passed the field sobriety tests and was not drunk. That’s a lot to get wrong. Of course, since Troost claimed there was no video, it would be his word alone. Charron was arrested and charged. It was not until three months later that prosecutors dismissed the charge after learning of the video and a blood test that revealed her blood-alcohol level to be .06, below the legal limit.

Lest you think Troost simply made a mistake, there’s another case:

In the second case, prosecutors claim Troost wrote in an affidavit stating he was at the scene of a DWI arrest and conducted a field sobriety test on the side of the road — when, in truth, he was 25 miles away at the police station. In reality, a different officer arrested Tomur Barnes and hauled him in, with Troost examining Barnes, then writing up the offense report as though he had been involved all along.

In Barnes’ case, Troost wasn’t even present at the scene of arrest and couldn’t have conducted the field sobriety tests. Yet, he said he was. As with Charron, Barnes’ case was eventually dismissed. In each case, Troost applied for and was granted search warrants to obtain blood for alcohol testing. After all, why would a magistrate deny a warrant when the officer claimed he had sufficient evidence and probable cause for an arrest and a blood draw? He met all the requirements: he claimed a traffic violation, a strong odor of alcohol on their breath, and the failure of sobriety tests. The recipe for arrest was complete.

Interestingly, Troost’s observations noted in the affidavits for both Charron and Barnes are nearly identical. From the Charron Affidavit:

I met with the defendant I observed her to have a strong odor of alcoholic beverage on her breath, red glassy eyes, and slurred speech. … I observed the defendant to have poor balance. I conducted an HGN and observed all six clues. … I came into contact with the Defendant and noticed a strong odor of alcoholic beverage, red glassy eyes, slurred speech, and poor balance. … The Defendant performed the OLS, and the WAT. I observed 3 clues of intoxication on the OLS, and 6 clues of intoxication on the WAT. The Defendant refused to provide a breath or blood sample.

Barnes Affidavit:

I met with the defendant and observed him to have a strong odor of alcoholic beverage on his breath, red glassy eyes, and slurred speech. I observed the defendant to have poor balance. I conducted an HGN and observed all six clues. … I came into contact with Defendant and noticed a strong odor of alcoholic beverage, red glassy eyes, slurred speech, and poor balance. … The Defendant performed the OLS, and the WAT. I observed 3 clues of intoxication on the OLS, and 6 clues of intoxication on the WAT. The Defendant refused to provide a breath or blood sample.

Pretty easy when you have a fill in the blank warrant affidavit and a standard recipe for DWI arrests. Especially, where no one can really question your opinion as to driving facts, intoxication, and performance on tests. It’s not like the jury will be able to tell if Troost really could smell alcohol. It’s not like the jury will know about the driving facts if they don’t have the video.

While Troost’s lawyer, Nicole DeBorde, claims the cases against Troost are simply mistakes, she acknowledges the prosecutors may find more “mistakes” as they continue to comb through his prior arrests.

Of course, Troost is innocent until proven guilty, like any defendant; but, he sure knew the perfect recipe for a DWI arrest. Never mind that one or two ingredients were missing while Troost claimed, and swore under oath, to the perfect recipe.

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