AURORA, Colo. — A man who served jail time for sleeping drunk in the driver’s seat of his parked vehicle while it was running is calling out the Aurora Police Department for being inconsistent with its arrest policies.
“You have an entire city that is fuming because of your actions,” Darion Ross said of the Aurora Police Department, “so make the situation right.”
Ross said he was “literally shaking” when he read the story of Nathan Meier, an on-duty, armed Aurora police officer who was found slumped behind the wheel of his running police vehicle last March.
According to disciplinary documents obtained by the FOX31 Problem Solvers, Meier admitted to “drinking vodka from a bottle while at (his) residence and still on duty” before falling asleep behind the wheel in the middle of the street.
Meier was suspended and demoted after the incident but never arrested or charged with a DUI.
According to a break-down provided by the city, the suspension itself will cost Meier $11,163 in pay. Meier will lose 100 hours of annual vacation/leave time, and he will serve unpaid leave for 20 hours every month from November until June 2020. As many as 100 hours could also be held against him in the event of a future complaint or incident that results in another suspension or demotion.
Meier will also lose $9,278 due to his demotion. He will not be permitted to apply for a higher rank until 2021.
“At least this officer deserved the same (punishment) that I got – if not worse – because he should be held to a higher standard than I am. I didn’t take an oath. I wasn’t getting taxpayer dollars,” said Ross, who pleaded guilty to his third DUI in nine years in 2017.
Ross’s Blood Alcohol Content was .220, nearly three times the legal limit, when officers found him sleeping inside his vehicle in February 2017. He served eight months of work-release jail time, and he said he lost thousands of dollars due to fines, fees and lost income.
“It’s been hell,” said Ross.
“My client (Ross) had a BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) half what the officer had,” said Craig Mastro, the defense attorney who represented Ross in his DUI case. “My client wasn’t on duty like the officer. Those are offensive things. My client didn’t have a badge.”
Ross said he purposely slept in his car because he knew he was too drunk to drive. He turned on the ignition for heat but says he never drove. However, Colorado law considers a driver in physical control of a vehicle when they are in the driver’s seat while it’s running, even if it is parked.
“All of this that happened – all because of me trying to do the right thing and not trying to get behind the wheel and try to drive home,” said Ross.
“In this particular case, I would say my client was arrested inside the vehicle (and) not treated in the same manner as the officer, so that’s kind of offensive,” said Mastro. “I think police officers have a very difficult job…did (the officers) help one of their own? Sure they did,” said Mastro. “I’m not here to say what policy they should do. I don’t think they can call a cab for everybody, but maybe they can, you know, find a more human side.”
Mastro said there isn’t much Ross can do now, but he wonders how a future jury would look at cases like his, in which defendants never actually drive the vehicle.
“Under the law, my client was technically guilty of a DUI. Would a jury convict him today? I don’t know,” he said.
Through the Aurora police public information officers, Meier declined an interview with FOX31.