Civil Rights Lawsuit Continues Against Scurry County

A blood test showed Joe Lara had no alcohol. So, why did he spend three months in jail for DWI?
By James Clark

LUBBOCK, TX -- A federal judge ruled this week that Scurry County cannot be excused from a civil rights lawsuit on the basis of a legal concept called qualified immunity.  Joe Soto Lara sued Scurry County, former Sheriff Darren Jackson and one of Jackson’s deputies, Delwyn Davis, in March of this year.  

Lara was on probation after a previous conviction for Driving While Intoxicated and was pulled over in April of 2011.  According to the lawsuit, he was arrested for DWI but a blood test showed no alcohol whatsoever.

Lara’s lawsuit says Deputy Davis refused to pass along Lara’s application for a court appointed attorney.  The lawsuit also alleges the State District Court was never given a chance to see if Lara qualified for an appointed attorney.

Davis denied the allegation. 

Lara spent three months in jail until prosecutors examined the blood test and dropped the charge.  The lawsuit says the Scurry County Sheriff’s Department violated Lara’s Sixth Amendment constitutional rights. 

In court records Scurry County said it “would deny the allegations … and demand strict proof.”

More recently an attorney for the county asked U.S. District Court Judge Sam Cummings to throw out Lara’s lawsuit because officials enjoy certain protections from lawsuits such as qualified immunity.  Cummings ruled on Tuesday that qualified immunity does not apply and the lawsuit may continue.

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