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Retired appellate judge gets a year of probation in DUI case

A former state appeals court judge spent several hours as a fugitive Thursday before appearing in court to plead no contest to a misdemeanor DUI charge.

David F. Patterson, 63, former chief judge of the 2nd District Court of Appeal and the Pinellas-Pasco circuit, was sentenced to one year of probation by Pinellas County Judge Michael Andrews.

Three hours earlier, Patterson failed to appear for a court hearing. Andrews had issued a warrant for his arrest, saying he would withdraw the warrant if Patterson showed up in court by the afternoon.

It was not known why Patterson didn't show up when he was originally scheduled. Patterson could not be reached for comment and his attorney did not return a call. Prosecutor Scott Rosenwasser said he didn't know.

In the morning, Patterson's attorney, Robert Lang, told Andrews that Patterson's son indicated that the former judge had been ill.

Patterson's sentence was normal for a DUI: a $650 fine, a six-month driver's license revocation, DUI school, a 10-day vehicle impound, an order that he not consume alcohol during probation and an adjudication of guilt.

Patterson elected to pay $500 rather than complete 50 hours of community service, an option open to all DUI defendants.

Patterson retired from the 2nd District Court of Appeal in June to take a job with a Tampa law firm. By mid-August, Patterson's wife had accused him of making violent threats against her while drinking heavily and threatening suicide.

A judge issued an injunction preventing Patterson from visiting his wife at their Treasure Island home.

Patterson was ordered held under the Baker Act at the psychiatric department of St. Anthony's Hospital after police said they found him intoxicated at the house.

He was later released and, on Aug. 25, Pinellas sheriff's deputies arrested him for DUI after motorists reported seeing him drive his Porsche south in the northbound lane of Gulf Blvd. in Madeira Beach.

Patterson's blood-alcohol measured 0.241 percent in a test, three times the level at which a driver is presumed to be impaired under Florida law.

Former Gov. Bob Martinez appointed Patterson to the appeals court in 1989. Patterson had previously served three terms in the 1970s and 1980s as chief judge of the Pinellas-Pasco judicial circuit.

He was first elected to the bench in 1973.