By John Clark
While judges often have to take stern measures to assure that defendants show up for DUI court appearances, they rarely have to worry about the presence of the arresting officers, who are usually expected to testify at DUI trials.
However, a member of the Florida Highway Patrol recently proved this theory wrong after failing to show up for a DUI trial.
John Costa was tossed into a county jail this week for contempt of court after failing to show up for a suspect’s DUI trial, according to a report from the Orlando Sentinel. Costa’s failure to appear at trial forced the judge to dismiss the defendant’s case, according to sources.
Sources say that the 41-year-old state trooper failed to show up for a hearing in Volusia County a couples weeks ago. Court officials reportedly tried to contact Costa, but he failed to answer their phone calls and also refused to answer knocks on his home’s front door.
Thanks to his stubborn refusal to show up for trial, Judge Belle Schumann took the extraordinary step of charging him with contempt of court, and Costa began serving his five-day jail sentence earlier this week.
Interestingly, officials with the Florida Highway Patrol believe this is the first time one of their members has ever been thrown into jail for contempt of court. So Costa has certainly established a dubious milestone.
Sources believe his failure to appear for his trial could potentially end Costa’s tumultuous police career. Costa, however, recently told his supervisors that he plans to resign and leave the state, so he may be spared the indignity of being fired.
Costa’s troubles started last December during a routine drunk driving arrrest on a Florida interstate, according to sources.
On December 3, Costa pulled over Stephanie Halcomb after she sped by his patrol car at the wildly illegal speed of 92 miles per hour.
Costa smelled alcohol on Halcomb’s breath and discovered an empty bottle of 99-proof liquor in her car, so he administered a series of field sobriety tests, which the defendant reportedly failed.
Later, a breath test given to Halcomb revealed that she had a blood alcohol level of 0.192, which is well above the legal limit of 0.08.
This is all to say that prosecutors felt they had a very strong case against Halcomb, who had previously been convicted for a DUI three years earlier, and was facing up to a year in prison if she was convicted for a second DUI.
But Costa’s failure to show at trial left Halcomb off the hook, and court officials are now scrambling to learn why Costa took such an extraordinary step.