When Is a DUI Not a DUI?
By: Mike Stetzer
In the early morning hours of September 21 in Tarpon Springs, Florida, a Pinellas County deputy spotted a car traveling at a high rate of speed and decided to investigate. The driver reportedly smelled of alcohol and declined to take a breath test, but instead of being arrested for Florida DUI
, he was allowed to call for a sober ride.
The Tampa Tribune reported that the driver of the 2007 Dodge Charger stopped for speeding that morning was a Pasco County deputy. Sgt. John Daniels approached and questioned him after clocking him at 100 mph in the 45 mph zone. There is no record of a speeding ticket being issued or a DUI arrest being made.
Sgt. Daniels witnessed the driver, Pasco County Deputy Jose Berrios, passing vehicles in a no-passing zone. When he caught up with the Dodge Charger, it was pulled over in a turn lane and a passenger was outside of the vehicle urinating, in full view of other motorists. That passenger was reportedly Pasco County Deputy Kent Hentschel.
In Daniels' report, he states that Hentschel looked in his direction and then continued urinating. Daniels then approached the vehicle and asked Berrios for his driver's license, car registration and proof of insurance.
At that point, this traffic stop seemed to take an interesting turn. Instead of two young men possibly being arrested for serious offenses, they informed Daniels that they were Pasco County sheriff's deputies.
It seems that it's fine for deputies to drink and drive - recklessly - in their personal vehicles.
Daniels reportedly noticed that Berrios had glassy eyes and smelled of alcohol. When Berrios was asked how much alcohol he had consumed, he told Daniels that he had "one or two" drinks. When asked about why he was going 100 mph, no great answer came to mind. He and Hentschel both admitted that they had been drinking and were on their way home.
After the deputies admitted that they had consumed alcohol, Daniels reportedly presented them with an interesting option to resolve the situation. He told Berrios that if he could pass a breath test, he would be allowed to drive home. If he failed that breath test, he would have to call someone to give him a ride home.
Normally, if a driver suspected of DUI refuses to take a breath test, at a minimum they face an automatic suspension of their driver's license. Instead, Berrios declined to take the breath test that Daniels had requested and simply called for a ride.
Daniels reportedly waited for someone to pick up the pair of deputies and allowed them to leave after determining that the driver was not intoxicated.
So it would seem that under the right circumstances - that is, if you're an off duty deputy - a DUI is not exactly a DUI. Not even close.