Sheriff's deputy cut corners during investigations of drunk driving in Florida

Prosecutors in Polk County have dropped charges against 54 defendants accused of driving under the influence in Florida. The reasons stem from a sheriff’s deputy taking shortcuts in preparing DUI arrest reports and conducting tests to determine blood alcohol content.

Deputy Tex Thomas joined the Polk County Sheriff’s Office last year and made 124 arrests for suspicion of DUI in FL. In a court deposition for a drunk driving case, Thomas admitted to clearing just the top portion of an arrest report and reusing words from a previous arrest. The use of such a template, rather than writing specific details and observations unique to an arrest, is a violation of procedure. In one case, he inadvertently left in the name of the previous suspect’s last name. Thomas also admitted to not properly observing a 20 minute period of direct observation before conducting a breath test to ensure that the suspect did not belch, vomit or ingest something that could affect the accuracy of the test. He would include the drive time from the point of the traffic stop to the testing facility as part of the intended face-to-face window of observation.

Prosecutors felt the shortcuts jeopardized the DUI cases and they elected not to file official charges against 50 defendants and dropped four other charges. Those arrests were made between October 2008 and early July 2009.

Thomas, 27, has not been disciplined though there is an ongoing internal investigation. While he has been reassigned from targeted DUI enforcement to general patrol, he is still able to initiate traffic stops for suspected Florida DUI.

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