ST. PETERSBURG — An assistant public defender was arrested early Thursday, accused of interfering with an officer's DUI investigation of a driver she was with, according to the St. Petersburg Police Department.
Lori Lynn Lacey, 34, was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of obstruction/resisting an officer without violence. She joined the Florida Bar in 2001 and is a lawyer in the felony crimes division of the Pinellas-Pasco Public Defender's Office in Largo.
"I believe in the presumption of innocence for clients," said her boss, Public Defender Bob Dillinger, "and I will certainly give her that presumption."
According to police reports, Lacey was the passenger in a black 1992 Toyota Camry that a St. Petersburg officer pulled over near the 1600 block of 49th Street S about 4 a.m. The driver was Sean Michael Mahin, 28, of St. Petersburg.
The officer said he pulled the vehicle over because he couldn't see the license plate. The right tag light was out, police said, which is a traffic violation. But when the officer spoke to Mahin, according to police, he suspected that the driver was intoxicated.
The officer had Mahin get out of the car so he could interview him and have him perform field-sobriety exercises. But Lacey got out of the car, too, police said.
"What's going on?" Lacey kept asking the officer, according to the report. She repeatedly identified herself as a lawyer, police said.
The officer said he told Lacey several times to remain inside the car, and gave her a chance to leave the traffic stop. But Lacey "interrupted" the officer's investigation "five times," the report said, so the officer placed her under arrest.
Dillinger said he heard that Lacey believed the police were being unreasonable during their investigation. "I think she thought the officers were exceeding their duties," Dillinger said. Lacey could not be reached for comment Friday.
Mahin was also arrested on a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence. According to his arrest report, he appeared to have bloodshot eyes, swayed and stumbled, and had to lean on something for support.
He refused to submit to field-sobriety exercises and a Breathalyzer test. His arrest report doesn't indicate whether he was cited for the tag violation.
Mahin was released from the Pinellas County Jail Thursday afternoon after putting up $500 bail. Lacey was released on her own recognizance.
Dillinger said he will meet with Lacey on Monday. She will continue to work in his office as the court case progresses, he said, and when the case is resolved, he will conduct an internal review.