APD sergeant awarded $100K from Forsyth County after false DUI arrest

An Atlanta police sergeant was awarded more than $100,000 of Forsyth County taxpayer money after a lawsuit was settled last week because he was erroneously arrested for a DUI, Channel 2 Action News reported. 

In August 2017, Sgt. Paul Sparwath called 911 when he saw some teenagers acting suspiciously in his Forsyth County neighborhood and possibly breaking into cars, Channel 2 reported. 

Forsyth County deputy Tim Sheldon ended up letting the teens go, but he told the other deputies he thought he smelled alcohol on Sparwath’s breath, the news station reported.

Sparwath had just arrived home after working a side job at an Atlanta nightclub, and he still had on his Atlanta police uniform, Channel 2 reported.

Dash camera video obtained by Channel 2 Action News shows Forsyth County deputy Tim Sheldon giving Atlanta police Sgt. Paul Sparwath a field sobriety test. (Photo: Channel 2 Action News)

Sparwath told Sheldon he had just finished an 18-hour shift, and he insisted he had nothing to drink, the news station reported. After a field sobriety test, Sheldon had concerns about the results and arrested the sergeant. 

Dash camera video obtained by Channel 2 shows Sheldon arrested Sparwath.

Once they arrived at the Forsyth County Jail, Sparwath took a Breathalyzer, and the results were .007, which is far below the legal limit of .08, the news station reported. A second test said he had a blood alcohol content of zero.

Weeks later, the sheriff’s office dropped the charges, and Sheldon was suspended without pay and transferred to the jail, Channel 2 reported.

Forsyth County Sheriff Ron Freeman has since apologized to the APD sergeant and said this should have been handled differently, the news station reported. He also said he’s reviewing his policies and retraining his deputies on DUI arrests.

Correction: An earlier version of this article from Channel 2 Action News incorrectly reported Sgt. Paul Sparwarth’s first Breathalyzer test as registering .07. It actually registered .007.

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