No one is above the law, and former Putnam County Sheriff Jeff Hardy (not to be confused with WWE Superstar Jeff Hardy) was arrested last week in Ormond Beach for DUI. Video of the Field Sobriety Exercises don’t look good for Mr. Hardy.
Once again Body Cameras observe Violations
As we have previously discussed, body camera evidence is used not only to protect, but to preserve evidence. Here it is saving the evidence of the performed field sobriety exercises. Often times in DUI cases, the arresting officer has a camera in his car, or on his body. This will preserve the performance of the field sobriety exercises (FSE’s). Most people think of FSE’s as “tests.” This is not the case. There is no Pass or Fail, the officers look for “clues” during these exercises that indicate if someone is impaired. Using the NHTSA’s DWI Detection Manual , the officer evaluates the clues based on the performance of the exercises to form probable cause for the arrest. Despite what Mr. Hardy states, he did not “write the book” on DUI, NHTSA did.
What Clues are Apparent?
First looking at the video, Mr. Hardy is combative with the investigating officer. During the HGN (Pen Light Test), he is not following the stimulus (pen). During the walk and turn exercise, he cannot keep in the starting position. And, he did not follow instructions; he did not walk in a straight line. You can see a pattern here. I will not analyze the whole video.
Is there a Defense?
There are always defenses to a DUI. Without knowing the reason for the initial stop, we cannot evaluate the constitutionality of the stop. As a skilled defense attorney, I see some issues right away. Did you see these?
- the arrestee is performing exercise in bare feet.
- the arrestee informed the officer of specific physical problems that might affect his performance
- the arrestee performed the exercise on a road with a giant crack, which means it may not be a flat surface as advised by the NHTSA manual
These are just some of the issues I observed with this case. Will it create a not guilty verdict? I will leave that to his attorney.
Could this have been avoided?
Absolutely, this could have been avoided. If you watched the video and read the story, Mr. Hardy already had one encounter with police that night. It seems he was given a professional courtesy which most people do not get when the Volusia County officers warned him not to get behind the wheel after an earlier altercation. It appears there was even an offer to get him home, which was not taken.
Many people get arrested for DUI. In fact, a former president and vice president have been arrested for DUI. It does not excuse the crime. As a DUI defense attorney, I get asked all the time how to avoid a DUI. The answer is simple: Don’t Drink and Drive. I say this without judgment. Simply, it is the only way to avoid a DUI. The other major question I get asked is “Should I give a breath sample?” See my answer here.
If you are reading this because you have recently been arrested for DUI, get a copy of my new book: My Loved One has Been Arrested, What’s Next.