On January 12, 2014, Hernando County Sherriff’s Deputy Joseph Tibor was arrested under suspicion of DUI after being caught by law enforcement speeding. According to the report of the arresting officer, Tibor had alcohol on his breath and bloodshot eyes after being pulled over for speeding, leading the officer to suspect Tibor was drunk. Tibor also allegedly had difficulty handing the officer his driver’s license and had admitted to drinking 5 drinks. According to the police report, Tibor then failed his field sobriety tests and was arrested. At the police station, Tibor refused to take a breathalyzer.
This week, prosecutors announced that they were not moving forward with Tibor’s DUI case because of apparent conflicting testimony and lack of evidence relating to his arrest. Many eyewitnesses, both at the scene and at the jail where Tibor was taken claimed that Tibor did not have the smell of alcohol on his breath and did not show signs of being drunk. Additionally, one eyewitness claims that Tibor never had a problem handing his license to the officer and did not say that he had been drinking that night. Additionally, the arresting officer and another officer at the scene did not have dash cams and did not record the field sobriety tests and the recording which was supposed to be done of Tibor refusing to take the breathalyzer failed because of failure by law enforcement. Many of the witnesses for Tibor were law enforcement officers.
Because of the number of apparent errors in the case, the prosecutor will not be going forward with the case, believing that it is too flawed for them to a successful outcome at trial. Prosecutors claim that the fact that most of the eyewitness accounts which disputed the arresting officer’s claim had no effect on the outcome. Despite the DUI charges being dropped, the other charge Tibor is facing, refusing the breathalyzer, is still active and Tibor is still on leave from his job while the outcome of that case is determined.
What Tibor’s case shows is that the outcome of a DUI arrest is not always a guilty verdict or a plea bargain, especially if the underlying case is flawed and evidence is missing. Prosecutors have to prove any criminal case beyond a reasonable doubt, including DUI cases. This means that when the evidence is flawed as it is here, it will make the case too weak to be successful. Specifically the problems with Tibor’s case was the disputing evidence when it came to eyewitnesses in the case added to the fact that police could not back up their claims that Tibor was drunk with any video evidence of the field sobriety tests or of the refused breathalyzer.
Even though the DUI case against Tibor will not be moving forward, there is still a chance of the charge of him refusing a breathalyzer moving forward. Prosecutors do not have to prove that a suspect was drunk at the time a breathalyzer was refused. Under state law, someone must take one when requested by officers or risk penalties such as license suspension. However, there are flaws in this case which may prove fatal as well, mainly the absence of any video recording of Tibor refusing to take the test, despite the fact that the normal procedure for this jail was to record breathalyzer tests. Without this evidence, there is a chance that this charge could be dismissed as well.
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