When Angela Graham-West, the wife of Texas GOP gubernatorial candidate Allen West, was arrested in August for DWI, Allen West doubted that she had been drinking. According to Dallas police, Graham-West was pulled over after an officer observed her swerving onto the shoulder of a highway.
She was given field sobriety tests, and the police said she showed some signs of intoxication. However, according to her attorney Todd Shapiro of The Shapiro Law Firm, she had previously had a brain aneurysm behind her right eye that could explain any irregularities in her performance. Graham-West says she told the officer about the aneurysm, but the information was not included in the police report.
A breathalyzer test at the scene was apparently inconclusive, but Graham-West was still arrested and charged with DWI. She was jailed overnight.
Now, the toxicology tests are back. They conclusively show that Graham-West had no drugs or alcohol in her system at the time of her arrest.
“I stand by my assertion that a full apology to my wife Angela is warranted,” said West in a statement. “As well, the full unedited body cam video should be released by the Dallas PD Chief Garcia to the press and the public. My wife’s honor and reputation should have never been assailed.”
The Dallas PD ultimately did release the dashcam and bodycam footage of the arrest. It said West had mischaracterized the situation.
The Dallas District Attorney’s Office has dismissed the charges based on the negative toxicology report. In a prepared statement, the Dallas PD commented that Ms. Graham-West had been afforded due process, as any person who stands accused of a crime would. “We respect the ultimate decision of the District Attorney’s office and wee will refrain from commenting further.”
Shortly after the arrest, West provided a receipt from the restaurant where Graham-West had been eating that day. It showed that she had only drunk water and lemonade.
Field sobriety tests and even breathalyzers can be inaccurate
As we see in this case, some people may not perform perfectly on field sobriety tests due to medical problems or other issues. Field sobriety tests are largely meant to measure balance and concentration, both of which can be negatively affected by things other than intoxication or drug impairment.
The “inconclusive” breathalyzer test is concerning. Roadside breathalyzers are only meant to be preliminary – they can’t be used as evidence in court, but they can provide enough evidence to call for a more accurate test at the police station. Nevertheless, they usually give some result.
So, what did the officer have upon which to base a DWI arrest? Field sobriety tests showing some irregular performance – but with a plausible excuse for why. A breathalyzer test that was inconclusive. Ms. Graham-West was not given the benefit of any doubt and was indeed charged despite evidence that she was innocent.
Allen West was the head of the Texas GOP before resigning earlier this year in a bid for the governorship. He and Ms. Graham-West are both Black.
Ms. Graham-West deserves an apology.