Advertisement

Our coronavirus coverage is free for the first 24 hours. Find the latest information at tampabay.com/coronavirus. Please consider subscribing or donating.

  1. Archive

VIDEO OF ARREST IN DUI CASE RELEASED

A reserve deputy passes sobriety tests and still gets arrested, it shows.

Illuminated by patrol car headlights, Meagan Blair stood straight and still for 32 seconds with her right leg raised in the air at a 45-degree angle.

She said the alphabet slowly without missing a letter. She walked heel-to-toe for nine steps on the white line of a parking space, then nine steps back the other way. She wobbled slightly on the turn.

Still, she went to jail on a DUI charge.

On Monday, after requests from local media, the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office released the video of Blair's May 4, 2006, arrest. Usually, a year-old arrest for driving under the influence would not be news.

But Blair, 41, was a volunteer reserve deputy with the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office. And the man who cuffed her, former Deputy Daniel Brock, was fired by that office and is now under investigation for his handling of drunken driving cases.

A review by an internal affairs investigator found that Brock, 38, arrested 58 people with blood-alcohol content below the level at which state law presumes a driver impaired - often without evidence of suspicious driving behavior, positive urine samples or video to back his claims.

Brock is fighting to get his job back. In an interview last week, he defended his actions and criticized the internal affairs investigation that led to his ouster.

Blair, whose case ultimately was dropped by the State Attorney's Office, said she made an official complaint about Brock after her arrest.

"First of all, why did you pull me over?" she asked him on the video.

"Speed and failure to maintain a specific line," he said.

She refused to take a breath test, thinking he had no probable cause for the stop. She told Brock that she had consumed four vodka and tonic drinks.

"Do I need to read you Miranda or do you know Miranda?" he asked.

He didn't read her rights.

That concerned a prosecutor who reviewed the case, according to a memo dated Sept. 6.

So did the inconsistencies that prosecutors and sheriff's officials alike found between Brock's report, the video and a statement he gave when questioned about the arrest, the memo indicates.

In the memo, Assistant State Attorney Jennifer Gabbard said she learned that an off-duty deputy at the scene planned to testify that he felt Blair had adequately performed the sobriety tests.

Gabbard viewed Brock's report and watched the video, noting that it was recorded from "quite a distance."

"The defendant does do the (field sobriety tests) very well," she wrote. "She does make a few mistakes, however, these mistakes could be easily explained by her to a jury as being the result of something other than impairment - i.e. she was nervous, she was upset, etc.

"The defendant did extremely well on the one-leg stand," Gabbard wrote.

Brock found an open container in Blair's car. She admitted to drinking more of it than the deputy noted in his report but "steadfastly maintained that she was not impaired," Gabbard said.

Blair's success with the tests convinced Gabbard that "the evidence in this case is not strong."

The State Attorney's Office dropped Blair's case Aug. 15. It was among 65 of the 313 DUI arrests made by Brock from October 2005 to October 2006 that prosecutors declined to pursue. In those dropped charges, 25 drivers registered well over the 0.08 percent blood-alcohol benchmark at which state law presumes a driver is impaired.

Because Blair refused to take the breath test, she lost her license for one year. She was unable to get it back earlier even with proof that her case was not being prosecuted.

"It was embarrassing," she said Monday. "I was never so miserable in my life."

But she considers herself luckier than others, given that she didn't lose her day job and she knew where to turn for help within the system.

"I think about those poor, poor immigrant people, the other people who had no leg to stand on, they did lose their job," she said. "That's who I feel sorry for."

Colleen Jenkins can be reached at (813) 226-3337 or cjenkins@sptimes.com.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Advertisement
Advertisement