When Port Richey police arrived to a post-midnight call related to a man asleep behind the wheel of a red SUV, they discovered that the drowsy driver was none other than the city manager. What happened next has been the subject of intense scrutiny and debate in the area, as the politician was taken to the hospital, ostensibly because of his medical condition. Dashboard camera footage, however, reveals that the man exhibited all the telltale signs of intoxication from alcohol.
The officer on duty testified that he smelled a strong odor of alcohol on the dazed motorist at the time of the stop. His bloodshot eyes, slurred speech and inability to stand bolstered the officers’ suspicions. These suspicions were confirmed by medical records that evening, which indicate that the politician’s blood alcohol content was four times the legal limit.
In light of these facts, which only trickled out later, area residents want to know why the incident wasn’t classified as a DUI stop. While the man was finally issued a DUI misdemeanor citation, many wonder whether the incident would have been completely swept under the rug and explained away as a medical issue. One outraged community member exclaimed that if she, or any other average citizen, had been pulled over in this condition, she would be headed straight for jail.
While the recent case in Port Richey seems to be a clear case of an individual’s municipal position providing protection, at least temporarily, police do honestly mistake medical symptoms for intoxication on certain occasions. In addition, certain medical conditions can also skew results of breath tests. For example, asthma and diabetes cause the natural production of a chemical that produces isopropyl alcohol, which breath tests simply cannot distinguish from the type of alcohol found in liquor, beer and wine. Medical studies indicate that naturally occurring alcohol can in fact fool Breathalyzers into producing false results that place sober drivers above the legal limit.