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In Arizona, the laws against drunk driving are so tough that most drivers would be relieved if police let them off of a drunk driving charge and just told them to wait for their ride. Korie Hoke, 21, is not one of those drivers.
Hoke has filed a lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court against Tempe and its police department. She claims that because of police negligence, a drunk driving accident with injuries was not avoided.
Wait a second. This woman is suing the police for not arresting her for DUI? It would seem so.
On December 31, Hoke says in her lawsuit, she left a New Year's Eve party while she was drunk and distraught after an argument left her fearing for her safety.
Hoke says that she was still at the party when she found her boyfriend cheating on her and called the Tempe police.
She told police dispatchers she feared for her safety because her boyfriend, the other woman and friends were following her.
Hoke was sitting in the driver's seat of her car and was hysterical when Officer Lateef Hampton arrived on the scene just after 3 a.m. The officer found her in her car, crying and talking on her cell phone, according to a taped interview that Hampton gave to one of Hoke's attorneys. The tape of the interview has been released by the Tempe Police Department.
The officer reported that there were several people surrounding Hoke's car and they were trying to get her to open the door of the car. She refused to open the car door, even when Hampton asked her to do so. However, Hampton says that he eventually was able to persuade the woman to open the door of the car.
Hoke, who was 20 at the time, reportedly admitted to Hampton that she had been drinking. Other people at the party said that most of the people there had also been drinking. Hampton cited Hoke for underage drinking but did not conduct any field sobriety tests or try to determine her blood-alcohol content in any way.
Hoke and her boyfriend told Hampton that the boyfriend had taken her keys, so Hampton apparently assumed that Hoke would not be driving while she was intoxicated. Hoke's boyfriend left shortly after Hampton arrived at the party, so her keys were not even with her or the car anymore. Hampton said he had attempted to make sure Hoke didn't have a spare set of keys for the car.
Hampton reportedly asked Hoke to empty her purse, which she did, and he also conducted a search of the car. His search did not turn up a spare set of keys.
"Obviously, my main concern was for her driving - her level of intoxication. So I wanted to make sure she didn't have those keys anywhere on her," Hampton said.
Hoke then called her parents to come pick her up. Hampton reported that he spoke with her parents and they told him that they would be right there to drive her home.
The officer said that because she was legally an adult, he decided to leave her to wait for her parents. Hampton said that if she had been a juvenile, department policy would have required him to wait.
When Hoke's parents arrived seven minutes later to pick her up she was already gone. She had used a set of keys that she had concealed from the officer's search and taken off in her car. She crashed into a wall a short time later and rolled her car.
Hoke's lawsuit does not say why she did not wait for her parents, and her attorney has not given a reason for her driving either. However, her lawsuit claims that her failure to wait for her parents was Hampton's fault, not hers.
The complaint says Hampton "negligently left the scene" and left her "alone and severely intoxicated with access to her vehicle and with her car keys, with the knowledge that her parents were minutes away."
The lawsuit that Hoke has filed alleges that because of Hampton's negligence, she suffered serious injuries in the collision, including brain trauma.
Hampton drove to the scene of Hoke's crash after hearing the accident call on his police radio. "I wasn't sure it was her," he told the defense attorney. "But when I showed up on the scene, I recognized her vehicle."
When Hoke was taken to the hospital, doctors determined that her blood-alcohol content was above the legal limit. Hoke's attorneys have not disclosed what her actual blood-alcohol content was at the time of the accident.
Hoke has asked for $1.8 million in damages in a notice of claim against the city. Tempe has denied the claim and plans to defend the case in court, said Andrew Davidson, an attorney with the city.
One of Hoke's attorneys says that police should have taken more precautions to keep Hoke safe. "There are other options to have taken," he said. "Wait for the parents, have her vehicle towed or take her into custody."
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