Kathryn Slayton, a COVID-19 nurse in Tennessee, never expected to be arrested after she picked up her son from daycare. She was on her way home when the police pulled her over and arrested her for driving under the influence, but Slayton maintains that she was sober the whole time. She was just exhausted from working at the hospital.
Slayton was recovering from a series of long shifts when she picked up her son from the local daycare center in September of 2021. An employee at the center complained that a parent who had come to pick up their child appeared to be under the influence of an unknown substance, according to the police report.
Lydia Uselton, who filed the complaint, said Slayton “seemed off” and that she was “talking to herself and scratching her head” while she let her child run around the parking lot.
Uselton then called the police just as the mother and child got in their car and drove away. The police quickly arrived on the scene and stopped Slayton on her way home.
According to the police report, Slayton had “slurred speech and her movements and mannerisms seemed to be slowed” when the officers pulled her over.
When they asked her if she had been drinking or using drugs, Slayton said she takes Adderall and Prozac for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
“She stated she had taken her medicine earlier that morning, had not taken any since and has not taken anything else,” the complaint states.
The police had her walk the line and then arrested her based on her mannerisms and failure to pass the sobriety test. A blood test was also taken as evidence.
Her son was then placed in child services after Slayton told the police she didn’t have any friends or family in the area. Slayton said her son remained in custody of the state for nine weeks while she waited for the blood alcohol test results to come back, which didn’t arrive for a full six months. The results show Slayton wasn’t intoxicated at the time of her arrest.
Slayton said she was “completely surprised” when the police asked her to stop the car that day. “It never occurred to me that anyone thought I was impaired,” she said.
She had the day off when she picked up her son from daycare after working 41 hours over three days to help treat COVID-19 patients.
Body cam footage from the officers shows Slayton trembling while performing the one-leg test often used to assess sobriety. An officer in the video can be heard saying, “I don’t smell any alcohol.”
“It dawned on me that, oh my God, if I don’t pass this sobriety test, I may not be taking my son home,” she said in hindsight.
“Once I realized that, I started shaking. I knew I hadn’t done well on the field test, but I really thought they would be able to tell the difference between someone who was tired and somebody who was actually impaired,” she said.
The negative blood alcohol test was a huge relief to Slayton and her attorney Ben Powers.
“She did test positive for her prescribed medication. But they were very much within therapeutic levels,” Powers said.
Once the results came in, all chargers were dropped.
Slayton said being away from her son for nine weeks was the “worst pain” she ever experienced in her life.
“It was like a part of me was missing,” she explained. “(Franklin police) have traumatized my son; they have traumatized me. They have driven a nurse, with a clean record in 3 states, right out of Franklin, Tennessee.”
The Franklin Police Department defended the officers’ decision to arrest Slayton after reviewing the body cam footage of the nurse shaking.
“Since there was no one to take custody of the child, the Department of Children Services was contacted. They had jurisdiction over next steps regarding the child, and not the Franklin Police Department. The Franklin Police Department does not control how the blood tests are processed,” it said in a statement.
The department also claimed the officers made the “correct call to provide for the safety of the child, Ms. Slayton and other drivers” and that a magistrate also found probable cause to support the charges. Her son was returned to her after a psychologist found that she was fit to regain custody.
When asked about her body movements in the body cam footage, Slayton acknowledged that she looks shaky. She said she understands why the police were concerned at the moment.
“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.”