Calgary teen says his car was impounded for having dilated pupils: ‘I did nothing wrong’
A Calgary teenager says his car was impounded based only on the size of his pupils and he thinks that’s ridiculous.
On Thursday, Dec. 7, Brody Johnston, 17, was driving home from a friend’s place when he was pulled over at a checkstop on Glenmore Trail near Deerfoot Trail. Johnston said he was questioned by a police officer if he had anything to drink or if he had taken any drugs. Johnston said he replied that he hadn’t but that the officer then looked at his eyes.
“He was like, ‘Just based off the size of your pupils, you must be on something.’ And I was like, ‘That’s a pretty big assumption just based on pupil size,'” Johnston told Global News on Monday.
He said he told the officer that he had suffered at least three concussions over the past three years and, as a result, has developed a condition that causes dilated pupils.
“I mentioned to them the fact about my concussions and that I have been through physiotherapy and they’ve told me that my eyeballs are a little bit messed up from head trauma,” Johnston said.
“He basically just disregarded it and said it wasn’t a thing.”
Johnston said he asked to speak with a supervisor on the site to get a second opinion, but that didn’t help his case. He said his car was towed and impounded and he was given a 24-hour suspension, but no impaired driving charge. The 24-hour suspension ticket shows a box ticked off for drugs with the officer’s notes stating “extremely dilated pupils.”
“I took the breathalyzer test, I did physical test and I talked to them for about 50 minutes, back-and-forth debating whether or not I was under the influence,” Johnston said.
“I was completely competent and completely fit to drive and just based on my pupil size that was enough for them to take it away. Pretty ridiculous.”
He called his dad after being told his car was being towed.
“My first response was: ‘Brody, are you impaired? Were you drinking or are you on anything?'” his father Corby Johnston said. “‘Because if you are, the consequences are yours to bear.’ He said: ‘Dad, I’m absolutely not.’ I said, ‘Well then, you need to push back. If you are 100 per cent sober, this isn’t tolerable.'”
There were no charges laid against Johnston, but he said he was left without his car and a $253 bill to get it back.
Over the last three years, Corby said his son has had three concussions through playing soccer and football and each time they get progressively worse. He said it has left his son with a condition called mydriasis. Mydriasis is the medical term for the dilation of the pupil which can be caused by head trauma or the use of drugs. Johnston was diagnosed with ocular migraines, which cause pupil fluctuation.
Johnston has filed a complaint with the Calgary Police Service (CPS).
In an emailed statement to Global News, the CPS said the Professional Standards Section is looking into the case.
“While we are unable to release specific details while the matter is being reviewed, CPS can confirm that officers can issue a 24-hour licence suspension if they reasonably suspect a person’s physical or mental ability to operate a motor vehicle is affected,” CPS said.
“When issuing these suspensions, officers take into account multiple different factors including signs of impairment, a driver’s mental state, physical injury or even fatigue.”
According to the Alberta Transportation website, a driver may be issued a 24-hour licence suspension/disqualification “if your ability to operate a motor vehicle is impaired by alcohol, drugs or a combination of both, or your driving ability is affected by a physical and/or medical condition.”
Police officers already issue immediate 24-hour licence suspensions when they suspect a driver’s ability to operate a motor vehicle is impaired by alcohol, drugs or a combination of both.
Immediate roadside suspensions of three days or more will not be issued based on the judgement of a police officer. “These suspensions are based on readings from scientifically approved devices that are rigorously maintained, checked and carefully calibrated,” the site reads.
“They need to actually have more facts before they can do something that serious to an innocent person,” Johnston said.
His father says he understands how an officer might think a person could be under the influence of drugs if he has dilated pupils, but he’s hoping for more awareness of medical conditions which can make it appear as if a person is on drugs.
“If officers are that experienced on the side of the road that they can make snap judgements based on pupil size, then they should know about some of these other things that may cause them other than substance abuse,” Corby said.
“I get it,” he added. “You can assume that maybe there is something going on there from substance use but in this case, there wasn’t. And the consequences were pretty extreme.”
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