A truck driver alleges he was held in the Box Elder County Jail for 17 days last summer without being charged with a crime or being brought before a judge, according to a complaint filed Friday in U.S. District Court for Utah.
Robert Kuchcinski was driving an 18-wheel tractor-trailer on Interstate 15 near Tremonton on June 16, 2012, when he reached for something across the cab, causing the truck to drift out of its travel lane. A Utah Highway Patrol trooper stopped Kuchcinski and cited him with failure to stay in his lane, a class C misdemeanor. The trooper then required Kuchcinski to take Breathalyzer and field sobriety tests. Kuchcinski had difficulty with a balance test, which he told the trooper was likely due to a severe inner-ear infection, according to the court filing.
The deputy arrested Kuchcinski on suspicion of driving while impaired and transported him to the Box Elder County Jail, where a blood sample was drawn. For the next 17 days, he remained incarcerated without being arraigned, formally charged with any other crime or being allowed to meet with an attorney, the complaint states.
On July 2, 2012, Kuchcinski asked a deputy sheriff when he would be allowed to see a judge. When the deputy asked what his lawyer had told him, Kuchcinski said he had not yet met with an attorney.
He was then allowed to contact an attorney and a day later was released from the jail. Defense attorney Earl Webster obtained a copy of Kuchcinski's file and learned the Breathalyzer test showed his client's blood alcohol level at the time of the traffic stop was 0.00. The blood analysis also was negative for controlled or potentially impairing substances.
Kuchcinski was fired from his job while in jail and now has "debilitating anxiety attacks" whenever he has to drive more than a few miles, which has affected his ability to work as a long-haul truck driver, according to the complaint.
In addition to constitutional and state law violations, he alleges he was falsely imprisoned. He has asked for a jury trial to seek compensation.
The Salt Lake Tribune was unable to reach anyone at the Box Elder County Sheriff's Office on Sunday for comment on the lawsuit.