Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Drunken Driving Dismissals Raise Concern Others Won't Take Tests

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Drunken Driving Dismissals Raise Concern Others Won't Take Tests

Article excerpt

Three days after drunken driving charges were dropped against

Florida Republican Party Chairman Tom Slade, the State

Attorney's Office last week dismissed the same charges against a

Fort Lauderdale police sergeant.

In both cases, the men refused to take field sobriety and

Breathalyzer tests.

Their refusals have left Assistant State Attorney John Whited,

who helps supervise the prosecution of drunken drivers, worried

the public is getting the wrong message: Don't take the tests

and you'll avoid prosecution.

Whited said he thinks Slade and James David Polan, the

34-year-old police sergeant, were not impaired and would have

gone home without incident had they submitted to sobriety

testing.

Though a judge released Slade five hours after his May 29

arrest, Whited said state law requires someone arrested on

drunken driving charges to be held until they blow below 0.05 on

the Breathalyzer or have spent eight hours in custody.

Refusal to take sobriety tests results in an automatic year

suspension of a driver's license, which is subject to appeal to

the state.

But Whited said there are times when the accused refuses to

take sobriety tests and the prosecution is left with "little to

none" on which to build a criminal case.

One remedy, Whited said, might be to toughen the law regarding

the tests. He said if drivers who refused to take the tests had

their licenses suspended for "two or three years," instead of

one and weren't allowed to get a conditional license that allows

them to drive to and from work, he thinks refusals to take the

tests would drastically decline.

However, the number of refusals was unavailable because

officials from the State Attorney's Office said they do not

track how many drivers refuse sobriety tests.

In Polan's case, Whited said after reviewing the evidence: "I

just didn't think I could sell impairment to a jury."

State Attorney Harry Shorstein, who reviewed the Slade case and

dismissed charges eight days after the arrest, said yesterday he

was unfamiliar with Polan's case and referred comment to Whited. …

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