Sunday, April 22, 2018
Public safety

After arrest, Lake County man sues Pasco sheriff

NEW PORT RICHEY — A Lake County man has filed a federal lawsuit against the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, saying he was arrested on driving under the influence charges for no reason.

The complaint filed Tuesday in federal court alleges that Cornelius Caldwell was driving through Dade City at 6:04 a.m. on April 7, 2013, and "exhibited no manifestations of alcohol or drug impairment" when he was pulled over by Deputy Gene Smith.

During the exchange with the deputy, Caldwell had no "physiological signs of impairment," the complaint states.

The complaint, filed by Orlando lawyer Jacob Stuart, says Caldwell passed all the deputy's field-sobriety tests and complied with Breathalyzer tests, which showed he had a 0.00 blood-alcohol level. Still, he was jailed, where he suffered, among other things, "physical inconvenience," "embarrassment" and "injury to his feelings."

For this, Caldwell is seeking $75,000 in damages.

Smith's report from Caldwell's arrest offers a different story.

Caldwell was pulled over for going 65 mph in a 55 mph zone, according to the report. His tag light also was out.

Caldwell said he was coming back from a friend's house where he'd had "a few drinks." He "performed poorly" on field sobriety tests, the report states, and showed "numerous signs of impairment," Smith wrote, including dilated pupils that did not react to light.

Initially, Caldwell refused a breath test, but after being read an implied consent warning, he relented. He was detained. Then, when he took the breath test at the Land O'Lakes jail, he did indeed have a 0.00 blood-alcohol level.

The deputy asked him to take a urine test, and Caldwell again consented. The deputy caught him trying to fill the sample cup with toilet water.

Caldwell gave a valid sample on his second try. The results of the test are not listed in the report.

The deputy wrote Caldwell a warning for speeding and the busted tag light and turned him over to booking staff. He was released at 2:26 p.m. on his own recognizance.

Court records show that Caldwell was charged with DUI and had several pretrial hearings last year, but nothing has happened in the case since.

A spokesman for the Sheriff's Office declined to comment on the lawsuit.

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