State drops DUI charge against former Nassau County Commissioner

Nearly one year after a Nassau County Commissioner proclaimed her innocence while being arrested for DUI, the state has dropped the charge against her. Instead, Stacy Johnson pleaded guilty last month to reckless driving, saying she was texting while driving the night of her arrest, but she was not intoxicated, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Johnson stepped down as chairwoman of the county commission days after her 2012 arrest, but stayed on the commission. She did not seek reelection and is now no longer an elected official.

Johnson was extremely critical of police in video from her Nassau County DUI arrest that was released and broadcast on local news sites, claiming the arrest was a political setup. Johnson said prosecutors offered to drop the charge shortly after her arrest if she agreed to resign her seat immediately, but she refused, the newspaper reported. She eventually pleaded guilty to reckless driving, paid a $208 fine, but did not receive any points on her license, the newspaper reported.

Police received a call about Johnson’s car allegedly swerving and almost hitting another vehicle and she was pulled over in her driveway by three officers, the newspaper reported. Johnson said she had one glass of wine, but police said she was unsteady on her feet and that they smelled an odor of alcohol beverages when speaking with her. Johnson refused to perform field sobriety exercises or take a breath test, the newspaper reported. The refusal to take the breath test resulted in a one-year driver’s license suspension and mandatory DUI school, the newspaper reported, and prosecutors said those punishments are the reason they agreed to drop the DUI charge.

Either you have enough evidence to proceed with a criminal case, or you don’t. In this Nassau County DUI case, it appeared the state did not. Yet Johnson’s case dragged out for more than a year before the state finally agreed to drop the charges. There appeared to be very little evidence in the Nassau County DUI Case against Johnson. She sounds coherent and appears to be speaking clearly on the police video, though she is clearly upset by the arrest. Because she refused, there are no results of field sobriety exercises, nor is there a blood-alcohol level to bring into evidence. The refusal did cause her to lose her license for a year. By accepting a driver’s license, a Florida driver consents to taking a breathalyzer test and, if he or she refuses, there are automatic penalties that kick in. Even if the charges end up being dropped completely, there’s usually some form of negative impact on anyone arrested for DUI. In the end, Johnson was cleared of the DUI charge, but still paid the price in the court of public opinion.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Nassau County or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Nassau County DUI Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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