Mich. Village Reaches $320K Settlement with Man Who Was Deported After Being Wrongly Accused of Drunk Driving

The arresting officer misinterpreted the breathalyzer test result administered to a Japanese citizen, per a court filing

<p>Getty</p> Stock photo


Stock photo
  • Ryohei Akima, a Japanese citizen, was arrested in 2020 in Fowlerville, Michigan, for allegedly driving while intoxicated

  • According to a court filing, Akima's administered breathalyzer test showed his blood alcohol content as 0.22, when it was actually 0.02, well under the legal limit

  • Akima sued the arresting officer and an appeals court ruled in October that the case could go forward before the January settlement

A Michigan village has agreed to a $320,000 settlement with a man from Japan who was falsely accused of drunken driving after a cop misread a breathalyzer test.

The agreement's monetary value was confirmed to PEOPLE on Friday by Ven Johnson Law, the firm that represented Japanese citizen Ryohei Akim, following an earlier report by the Associated Press.

According to a document filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit last October, Caitlyn Peca, a then-rookie officer with the Fowlerville Police Department, pulled over Akima for operating a vehicle with an inoperative headlight on Feb. 19, 2020. Per the filing, Akima was administered a breath test after he told Peca that he had drank “just a little bit out of the bottle.”

"[Peca] instructed Akima to blow into the breathalyzer, which required four attempts before Akima registered a reading,” according to the court document. “Officer Peca interpreted the test as showing an alcohol content of 0.22, well above Michigan’s legal limit of 0.08."

Related: Man Has Special Bond with Officer Who Arrested Him for Drunk Driving: 'Thank You for Saving My Life'

"In reality, however, the breathalyzer had reported 0.02, well under the legal limit,” per the filing. Following the inaccurate reading, Peca placed Akima under arrest for driving a vehicle while intoxicated.

According to the filing, Peca told a colleague over the radio, “I have no idea what I’m doing,” while making comments "about her ability to complete the arrest."

PEOPLE has reached out to T. Joseph Seward, an attorney for Peca, for comment.

Related: Dad Whose 3 Children Were Killed by a Drunk Driver Dies the Day After Father's Day

Akima explained to authorities that he had a U.S. visa and an international driver’s license, according to court records. He was taken to a hospital to have his blood drawn before being booked at the county jail.

The results from the blood test a week later showed that his blood alcohol content was 0.014, well below the state’s legal limit, according to the filing, and the charges of driving while intoxicated were thrown out.

Akima later sued Peca “for false arrest, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress,” according to the court filing, alleging that as a result of the charges, his visa was revoked and he was deported to Japan.

Per the complaint, Akima had to complete substance abuse courses in his native country before he could renew his visa, “and the process interrupted his ability to work in the United States for several months.”

Related: N.Y. Man's Obituary Includes Brutally Honest Warning About Drinking & Driving: 'Don't Be a Dumb A—'

Peca had sought to have the suit dismissed based on qualified immunity.

However, in the judgment issued in October, Judge Jane Stranch said that the case could proceed, writing, “On this set of findings, it would be evident to a reasonable officer that Akima was, quite apparently, sober. So a reasonable jury could conclude that Akima’s arrest was not supported by probable cause and that Officer Peca was not entitled to qualified immunity.”

A settlement was reached in January, per court records, and the village will pay via insurance, per the AP. Peca is no longer an officer with the police department.

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

"On behalf of our client, Mr. Akima, we are grateful to have finally secured justice and rightful compensation after battling through years of unnecessary delays due to governmental immunity,” Ven Johnson, Akima's attorney, tells PEOPLE.

“Mr. Akima, a Japanese citizen, endured a traumatic experience involving false accusations and a wrongful arrest for drunk driving, despite registering a blood alcohol concentration of 0.0 on a Portable Breath Test (PBT), resulting in malicious prosecution," he adds.

According to the AP, Seward said that performance on roadside sobriety tests justified making an arrest and allowing immunity from civil liability. “We're disappointed the courts didn't see it that way.”

For more People news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

Read the original article on People.