Friday, August 17, 2007

Invisible Marijuana Made Her Miss Prom

Teen sues police for missing prom
Jim Hannah
Kentucky Inquirer

An 18-year-old has sued three police officers, claiming she was wrongly arrested - causing her to miss prom and graduation.

Lacy Nicole Burden, who was a Simon Kenton High School senior at the time of her arrest, filed the lawsuit last week in Kenton Circuit Court.

Named as defendants are Independence Police Officers Mark Hampton and Matt Hicks and Kenton County Police Canine Officer Brett Benton.

Burden was arrested March 19 in the school parking lot and charged with one count of possession of marijuana.

She gave officers permission to search her car after a drug-sniffing dog indicated there might be drugs in the vehicle, according to court records.

Burden was suspended 10 days from school. When she was allowed to return, she could not participate in many senior activities, said her lawyer, Eric Deters.

The single misdemeanor drug charge was dropped on May 2 when prosecutors said the "alleged marijuana was so small ... it was not weighable," Deters wrote in the lawsuit.

Burden alleges in the suit that Independence police created a fraudulent lab report when testing the suspected marijuana to support an unwarranted arrest.

Deters said his client was publicly humiliated because students watched from school-building windows as she was arrested. Then, when she appeared in court to answer the charge, her class showed up at the justice center. The class was on a field trip that day, Deters said.

"We feel the case has no merit, and we intend on contesting it," said Dave Nichols, assistant Independence police chief. "Considering the litigation at the moment, we can not comment much further."

Deters quested why the department would be doing its own drug testing, but Nichols said it was a common practice among Northern Kentucky agencies to test small amounts of marijuana in misdemeanor cases.

Kenton County Police Chief Ed Butler said he couldn't comment on the allegations in the lawsuit but called Benton beyond reproach. He said he didn't believe Benton could be involved in any kind of conspiracy.

"I want to make it very clear that (Benton) is, without question, one of the finest police officers I have had the pleasure to work with."

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