A Jacksonville police officer who's been busted for drinking and driving before in her tenure on the force was arrested last week and charged with five counts of DUI causing property damage. Diane Jones was not on duty when she allegedly hit a car in a shopping center parking lot, then allegedly rammed in one on a nearby road, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Jones then returned to the same parking lot and allegedly hit a third car before bumping into another car twice while trying to park her vehicle, the newspaper reported.
Jones' problems didn't end there. Police said she refused to get out of her car and was pulled out by police when she reached for something underneath her seat, the newspaper reported. She then refused to submit to field sobriety tests and, once she was taken to a local hospital, refused to allow her blood to be taken, the newspaper reported. Had any of the crashes resulted in serious bodily injuries, Jones would have had no choice but to have her blood drawn. But since no one was hurt, she could still legally refuse.
Jones has been in legal trouble with drinking and driving before, and it's very likely her days as a Jacksonville police officer are now numbered. She received a 20-day suspension and was ordered to undergo treatment in 2007 after she was investigated for DUI by the Florida Highway Patrol, the newspaper reported. Then, in 2011, a citizen took video of her police car being driven recklessly and police found her drinking at a neighbor's house, the newspaper reported. Jones said she started drinking after driving and there was not enough evidence to prove she was drunk while driving. She was, however, fired from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office until an arbitrator ruled she must be reinstated, the newspaper reported. Jones was most recently assigned to a position taking reports over the phone and did not have a patrol car, the newspaper reported.
It's unclear how many DUI convictions Jones has on her record, but it's very possible she has none. Jacksonville arrests and investigations are not automatic convictions and that fact is significant in this Jacksonville DUI case. Had Jones been convicted in 2007 and in 2011, she would now be facing a felony charge. In Jacksonville DUI cases, if a person has two DUI convictions and is arrested on suspicion of DUI again, the charge can be considered a felony and punishable by up to five years in state prison. As it stands now, Jones is looking only at Duval County misdemeanors and potential time in the county jail - up to six months if it's her first conviction, up to a year if it's her second.
Consequences and penalties ramp up quickly in Jacksonville DUI cases so it's crucial that people do not plead to charges that cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The temptation is for people to plead guilty in first appearance court and start the clock on the coming driver's license suspensions, but that is a short-term decision that can have serious long-term consequences.
If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Jacksonville DUI Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.