A Hillsborough County Sherriff’s deputy and former St. Petersburg police officer was arrested late Sunday night for DUI with property damage after he rear-ended another vehicle. He was driving a 2004 Ford Explorer around 10 p.m. when he was arrested by Tampa police.
An officer said the 33-year-old deputy smelled strongly of alcohol and refused a Breathalyzer test. During field sobriety tests the man allegedly had problems following simple directions and his eyes were glassy and bloodshot.
He posted $500 bond and was released around 6 a.m.
A Hillsborough County Sherriff’s spokeswoman said the man has been placed on administrative leave without pay.
Florida prosecutors look at any DUI involving a collision or crash closely because enhanced penalties apply to those charges regardless if anyone was actually injured. The criminal charge of DUI with damage to another person or property is a first degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a $1,000 fine. A first DUI with no damages can carry consequences of six months in jail and $500 fine.
It will be especially interesting to see how the State Attorney’s Office deals with a sworn law enforcement officer refusing the breath test.
DUI cases with property damage do have viable defenses despite the seriousness of the allegation. In this case the man was asked to step outside of his vehicle and perform field sobriety exercises. Inaccuracies with the results could be possible since the tests were performed after the accident, and the driver could have been on edge from the accident or even hurt, and not intoxicated. The man did refuse a breath test, but if he had provided a sample, the reading could have been imprecise if his airbags were deployed during the accident. Many experts believe that when airbags are deployed during an accident it can throw off the breath test machine, causing it to record higher and erroneous readings.
If you have been arrested for DUI or DUI with property damage in Florida, contact the Florida DUI Lawyers at the Law Offices of Whittel & Melton, LLC online or call 1-866-608-5LAW (5529).