Dalton man alleges he was stopped by Chattanooga police for 'driving while Hispanic'

Dalton man alleges he was stopped by Chattanooga police for 'driving while Hispanic'

March 23rd, 2013 by Todd South in Local Regional News

A 47-year-old Dalton, Ga., man has filed a $500,000 lawsuit against Chattanooga and its police department, alleging racial profiling in an arrest last year.

Jose Molina alleges in the Hamilton County Circuit Court lawsuit, filed Friday, that he was stopped for "driving while Hispanic" by Officer Sheila Jetton on July 7, 2012.

Jetton arrested Molina for DUI and driving left of center lane after the stop. Officers took apart his car on suspicion he was a drug dealer, the suit states.

Subsequent tests showed no alcohol or other intoxicants in his system and officers found no illegal drugs or contraband in his car, according to court documents.

The charges were dismissed on Jan. 18 in Sessions Court.

Molina's attorney, Mike Raulston, said Friday he and his client waited until the criminal charges were dismissed before beginning the civil lawsuit.

Raulston said Jetton pursued the charges even though no evidence showed any indication that his client was guilty.

"What is just glaring, when an officer swears under oath that a person smells strongly of alcohol and the test comes back .00, something's not squaring," Raulston said. "I get really concerned when these kinds of miscarriages are carried out."

Chattanooga police spokesman Officer Nathan Hartwig said no internal affairs complaint had been filed related to Molina's case and that neither Jetton nor other police staff would comment on the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims civil rights violations for the arrest and detention of Molina, who is a naturalized U.S. citizen, and requests compensation of $250,000 and punitive damages of $250,000.

The city has 30 days to respond to the lawsuit.