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Judge is sentenced for DUI

Published Feb. 5, 1994|Updated Oct. 6, 2005

Keeping a promise he made the day after his arrest, Tampa federal judge Steven D. Merryday pleaded guilty to drunken driving charges and accepted the same punishment most first-time offenders get.

In Putnam County Court last Tuesday, Merryday was sentenced to one year's probation, said Assistant State Attorney John Stephenson. Merryday also was ordered to pay $688 in fines, perform 50 hours of community service, attend DUI school and give up his driver's license for six months, Stephenson said.

Merryday's case had been set for arraignment next Tuesday, but he decided to come in early and enter his guilty plea, Stephenson said.

Neither Merryday nor his attorney, Tito Smith of Palatka, returned phone messages Friday. Putnam County Judge Peter T. Miller, who sentenced Merryday, was out sick Friday, his secretary said.

Merryday, 43, was arrested Jan. 18 near his hometown of Palatka, after a Florida Highway Patrol trooper saw Merryday's car traveling erratically on U.S. 17 about 7:20 p.m.

Breath tests administered at the Putnam County Jail revealed that Merryday's blood-alcohol level was about three times that at which Florida law presumes impairment.

Drivers in Florida are presumed impaired if the blood-alcohol level exceeds 0.08. Merryday's two breath tests showed results of 0.22 and 0.24.

In a written statement issued the next day, Merryday said "I made an inexcusable and dangerous mistake in judgment, for which I accept full responsibility."

One year of probation, 50 hours of community service, attendance at DUI school, six months license suspension and fines ranging from $500 to $1,000 are the typical sentence for first-time DUI offenders.

Merryday, of Tampa, was nominated for the U.S. District Court bench in 1992 by U.S. Sen. Connie Mack, R-Cape Coral, and appointed by President Bush. He serves under a lifetime appointment with an annual salary of $133,000.

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