Earlier this week, it was reported that a Hernando County sheriff's deputy who was arrested on drunk driving charges last month won't be prosecuted. The Florida State Attorney's Office said it decided not to proceed with the case due to conflicting witness accounts and a lack of evidence. Many Florida residents may be wondering whether this man received preferential treatment because he is a law enforcement officer.
Let's look at the facts of the case. The deputy was arrested Jan. 12 when he was driving on State Road 50. He was reportedly pulled over by the Florida Highway Patrol for speeding, and a trooper decided to administer field sobriety tests based on observations during the stop.
The trooper noted that the deputy had bloodshot eyes and that his breath smelled like alcohol. The deputy failed field sobriety tests, according to the trooper's assessment, and he refused to submit to a breath test. As a law enforcement professional, the deputy was likely well aware that he may choose to do this. A driver who refuses to take a breath test may face an automatic one-year driver's license suspension for doing so, but he or she is able to avoid providing questionable drunk driving evidence.
Although the state trooper's report noted signs of drunkenness, other law enforcement officers who interacted with the deputy throughout the course of the arrest and investigation noted otherwise. For example, another deputy who arrived at the scene of the initial traffic stop shortly before the arrest noted that the man did not seem impaired. A county commission candidate who was in the second deputy's vehicle made the same conclusions.
Neither of the law enforcement vehicles at the scene were equipped with dashboard cameras, which might have helped make sense of the discrepancy.
In the end, there was no physical evidence of impairment and conflicting witness reports, prompting the state to decide it was not likely to obtain a conviction at trial. Hopefully, the state would have made this same decision regardless of the profession of the defendant.
The deputy does reportedly plan to appeal the automatic license suspension that resulted from the breath test refusal. Orlando residents may benefit from seeking legal counsel when they wish to fight license suspensions.
Source: Tampa Bay Times, "Decision not to prosecute Hernando deputy for DUI rooted in differing witness accounts," Tony Marrero, Feb. 6, 2014