Settlements reached in mistaken identity lawsuit

KRQE Investigates

It’s a mix-up no one would ever want to be faced with. Earlier this year, News 13 told you on Special Assignment how police arrested and locked up a New Mexico woman for a crime she didn’t commit. 

The woman filed a civil rights lawsuit, and the case is now over with in court. 

“I just kept saying that’s not me, that’s not me,” Joy Morales told News 13 during an interview back in April. 

It’s a phrase officers have likely heard before, but in Morales’ case, she was telling the truth.  

“I couldn’t believe it was happening,” she recalled. 

Morales served 49 days in jail, locked up in two different states. She missed Christmas with her young son, and it was all a mistake.
 
“The reason I stopped you is you didn’t stop at that stop sign, you didn’t make a complete stop,” a Hobbs Police officer told Morales in November 2015. 

She was pulled over in Hobbs, New Mexico, for rolling through a stop sign. 

When the officer ran her license, he found an active warrant out of Arizona for failing to appear on a DUI. 

“I haven’t even been there, I shouldn’t have a warrant out of anywhere,” Morales explained. 

It was actually a former high school classmate, a woman named Devonne Archibeque, who was picked up for DUI in Arizona. 

But according to court records, Archibeque, who had no ID on her at the time, gave officers Joy Morales’ name and birth date instead. 

This mix-up would cost Morales a lot of grief.

“I lost three months of my life,” Morales said. “It’s a long time.”

A warden in Arizona eventually approached her with Archibeque’s original booking photo in hand, and finally let Morales go. 

Charges against her were dismissed, but who is held accountable for a mistake like that?

“You know, you can easily find yourself in this sort of nightmare situation where nobody’s listening to you when you tell them it’s not you,” explained Cammie Nichols, Morales’ attorney. 

Morales filed a civil rights lawsuit against the City of Hobbs, Lea County Board of Commissioners, Hobbs Police, and the officer who arrested Morales. 

Arizona defendants were sued and settled out of court. Lea County defendants also settled for an undisclosed amount. 

And after a lengthy wait yet again, the City of Hobbs won a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing the Arizona warrant on its face appeared valid.

Nichols told KRQE News 13 back in April, “The law is difficult in that area, but in this case, you know she had so much evidence that it wasn’t her.”

More than two years after the original traffic stop in Arizona, court records show Archibeque was finally charged. 

She pled guilty to aggravated DUI and criminal impersonation and was sentenced to a year behind bars.  

Morales said she did what she could to prove her case and make sure this does not happen again. 

“You’re in the hopes that somebody’s gonna listen,” she said. 

None of the defendants who settled their portion of the lawsuit ever admitted any fault. 

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