Blood test shows woman charged with DUI, felony child neglect was sober at time of arrest

A Williamson County nurse was arrested on a charge of DUI despite not being under the influence.
Published: Jun. 21, 2022 at 7:59 PM EDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - It was supposed to be a “recovery day.”

After working 41 hours in three days caring for COVID patients, Katie Slayton had the day off on Sept. 22, 2021.

A single mother of a 5-year-old son, the Williamson County nurse had dropped him off at day care that evening so she could run to the mall.

A few hours later, she picked him up and prepared to pull out of the parking spot when she saw police lights directly behind her.

What would happen next would result in devastating consequences: charges of DUI and felony child neglect, separation from her son for nine weeks, and an agonizing six months of waiting for blood test results.

A test that would ultimately show she was sober the entire time.

“(Franklin police) have traumatized my son, they have traumatized me. They have driven a nurse, with a clean record in three states, right out of Franklin, Tennessee,” Slayton said.

The arrest

The call to the police came from a day care worker worried that Slayton seemed “off.”

In police body camera footage, the worker describes Slayton as “circling here, scratching her head, talking to herself.”

But Slayton was unaware of what the day care worker had claimed; all she knew was that police asked her to step out of the car and questioned her sobriety.

“When they asked you, ‘Are you impaired, are you drunk,’ are you surprised that they’re asking you at this point?” asked WSMV4 Investigates.

“Completely surprised. It never occurred to me that anyone thought I was impaired,” Slayton said.

In the footage, Slayton agrees to take a field sobriety test, insisting at one point that she has had nothing to drink.

An officer can be heard observing, “I don’t smell any alcohol.”

The police report shows Slayton acknowledging that she takes Prozac and Adderall for ADHD.

The video also shows Slayton’s 5-year-old son running up and down the sidewalk, ignoring a police officer’s calm requests to stop running.

When the boy’s laughter gets loud, the officer questioning Slayton motions to another officer, asking, “Can you…?”

The second officer ultimately picks up the boy to carry him back into the day care, to which he responds with a “No!”

Slayton then performs the field sobriety test, failing to stand firmly on one foot and appearing to teeter when walking with one foot in front of the other.

“I’ve seen the videos. You do look shaky,” WSMV4 Investigates said.

“Yeah,” Slayton said.

“You can understand why the officers might have had a concern,” WSMV4 Investigates said.

“I think, basically, it’s either fight or flight. It’s my maternal instincts. They were going off,” Slayton said. “I just realized they’re taking control of my son, and at that point, I started shaking.”

The police report writes that Slayton “had slurred speech, and her mannerisms appeared to be slowed.”

The body camera footage shows her astonishment when she’s ultimately arrested.

“You’re under arrest for DUI,” the officer said.

“What?” Slayton asked.

”Yes, ma’am,” the officer said.

The officer then asks Slayton if she has family or a babysitter who can come pick up her son. If not, her son will be placed in state custody.

“If you don’t get somebody or a friend to get him, then we have to call DCS, and they’ll take custody of him,” an officer tells her.

“Oh my God, no,” Slayton responds.

Slayton tells them she has no family in Tennessee, and her phone is dead, so she can’t contact a babysitter.

“There was nothing I could do at that point. I felt completely powerless,” Slayton said.

Her son would ultimately remain in state custody for nine weeks as she awaited blood alcohol levels, which showed her not to be intoxicated.

A psychologist’s review found her fit to regain custody.

But the test showing what else was in her body then would take much longer: six months.

When it finally became available, it showed, once again, that she was not impaired.

The charges were dropped.

“Just seeing myself charged with that was horrifying to me,” Slayton said.

But the question lingered: How could someone, completely sober, fail a field sobriety test?

Lawyers caution about driving “under the influence of ADD/ADHD”

The blood test did reveal what Slayton acknowledged: that she was positive for amphetamine due to her medication for ADHD.

“She did test positive for her prescribed medication. But they were very much within therapeutic levels,” said Ben Powers, Slayton’s attorney.

Given that untreated ADD/ADHD can make following directions difficult, attorneys across the country have raised the possibility that someone can be wrongly arrested for DUI if they exhibit ADHD behaviors.

A Memphis law firm has a post on its website reading, “How can ADHD/ADD be confused for a DUI/DWI?”

Attorney Charles Rowland’s website in Dayton, Ohio, has a post-reading, “Driving Under the Influence of ADD/ADHD.”

For officer preparation, the post states that “no special training is provided to look for signs of ADD/ADHD.”

“Police officers are trained to look for central nervous systems stimulants, which are almost identical to the type of symptoms as someone who has ADHD,” Rowland told WSMV4 Investigates.

ADHD experts will point out that medication can wear off each day and become less effective later in the day if taken first thing in the morning.

In the body camera footage, an officer asks Slayton about when she took her medication.

“Are you sure you took your medication this morning? You didn’t take it anytime past then?” asked the officer.

“Yes,” Slayton said.

Slayton later told WSMV4 Investigates that she recalls taking the medication later in the morning that day.

Slayton maintains that she performed so poorly on the field sobriety test because she was exhausted from the long shifts that week and knowing that officers were separating her from her son while she was undergoing the test.

WSM4 Investigates repeatedly called and emailed Franklin Police requesting an interview, but a spokesman for Chief Deborah Faulkner denied the request, citing potential litigation, sending a statement that reads in part, “The Williamson County Magistrate found probable cause to support charges and warrants were obtained.”

Slayton said she was not suing but instead asked that her arrest be evaluated.

Slayton said she was told that no discrepancies were found in how the arrest was conducted.

She said she also emailed Chief Faulkner for an apology but never received it.

Because of the arrest and the fallout, Slayton said she was leaving the state.

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