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Officer's charges may be dropped

A judge agrees that the statements by Tampa officer Matt S. Dolitsky after a wreck in March cannot be used in court.

Charges against a Tampa Police officer accused of leaving the scene of an early morning car crash may soon be dismissed after a judge's ruling Monday.

Matt S. Dolitsky was a 28-year-old officer with a clean driving record last March, when investigators say he raced up Interstate 75 in his 1993 Chevrolet Camaro at a high speed, crashed into a semitrailer truck and fled before troopers arrived to investigate. A woman and her daughter who drove up on the 2:36 a.m. collision could not identify the figure they saw running away across the interstate.

The truck driver was not injured, but Dolitsky's Camaro was wrecked. He is facing charges of leaving the scene of an accident with property damage, a criminal misdemeanor charge, and careless driving, a civil infraction.

At issue in court Monday was a conversation between Dolitsky and two Florida Highway Patrol troopers who came to his house more than 16 hours after the crash. Dolitsky admitted to the FHP investigators that he had been driving the Camaro in the collision.

Monday, however, Dolitsky's attorney, Victor Pellegrino, argued that prosecutors should not be allowed to use those statements against Dolitsky in court. Under Florida law, what a person who has been in crash says to investigators for the purpose of completing an accident report cannot be used against him unless he has been read his rights and has waived those rights, Pellegrino said.

Dolitsky was not read his rights against self-incrimination before he spoke to the troopers.

Hillsborough County Judge Joelle Ober agreed and granted the defense motion to suppress Dolitsky's statements. With the state lacking its strongest evidence to tie Dolitsky to the crash, Pellegrino asked for the charges to be dismissed.

Prosecutors, however, asked the judge to put off the matter, and a hearing has been scheduled for Aug. 30 at 1:30 p.m.

A Florida Highway Patrol spokesman said after the crash that investigators caught up with Dolitsky too late to test him to determine whether he had been drinking at the time.

The spokesman also said Dolitsky declined to answer questions about why he hit the truck and why he left the scene.

A separate police Internal Affairs investigation into Dolitsky's behavior that night is pending, Pellegrino said.

A police spokesman said after the crash that Dolitsky would be taken off street patrol and given administrative work until that investigation is finished.