BROOKSVILLE — The State Attorney's Office has decided not to prosecute a Hernando County sheriff's deputy charged with driving under the influence.
A lack of evidence and conflicting witness accounts about whether Deputy Joseph Tibor was impaired during a Jan. 12 traffic stop prompted the decision, Assistant State Attorney Will Hamilton said Tuesday.
"Several witnesses said the defendant smelled strongly of alcohol, performed poorly on field sobriety exercises and made admissions about consuming alcohol, but at the same time we had several witnesses who said he didn't smell like alcohol, that his performance on the field exercises was normal and that he didn't admit to consuming alcohol," Hamilton said. "The evidence wasn't there to have a substantial likelihood of conviction at jury trial."
Florida Highway Patrol Cpl. David Frye pulled over the white Mercedes sedan Tibor was driving on State Road 50 west of Brooksville about 9 p.m., an arrest report states. Frye clocked the Mercedes at 85 mph in a 55 mph zone.
Frye wrote that Tibor flashed his badge and had trouble finding his license in his wallet. A female passenger grabbed the wallet, took out the license and gave it to Frye. According to the report, Tibor initially denied drinking alcohol. But when Frye said he smelled an odor of alcohol on Tibor's breath and noted his glassy, bloodshot eyes, Tibor said, "Okay, well, I had maybe five drinks earlier."
Tibor, 45, was unsteady on his feet and failed sobriety exercises, the report states. He was placed under arrest for DUI and refused to give a breath sample at the Hernando County Detention Center.
Among those whose accounts conflicted with Frye's were Hernando Deputy Bryan Faulkingham and a civilian woman riding along with Faulkingham that night, Hamilton said.
"Her account was that (Tibor) didn't seem to be impaired, and she was surprised he was arrested," he said.
There is no video footage of the field sobriety exercises.
Tibor's attorney, Chip Mander of Dade City, called the decision "a wise choice based on what the independent witnesses had to say about the incident."
Tibor's license was suspended because he refused to take the breath test. He has an appeal hearing slated for Feb. 20.
Tibor will remain on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of that process, said sheriff's spokeswoman Denise Moloney. She said officials have not decided whether to conduct an internal affairs investigation.