A 21-year-old woman was run over on the beach on 4th of July weekend. Why no DUI charge?
SANTA ROSA BEACH — Information released by the Florida Highway Patrol this week sheds some new light on a July 3 incident in which a 21-year-old Lake Worth woman was run over on the beach in Walton County.
Reports say a 47-year-old man drove onto the beach in the middle of the day and failed to notice a woman lying on the sand. He rolled over her "backside" with his front tire and seriously injured her.
The woman's condition was not available Tuesday.
FHP spokesman Lt. Jason King declined to release the name of the man involved because "no arrest was made" in the case. The owner of the silver Ford F-150 involved, though, is listed in the report as Jennifer Murray McAlexander of Santa Rosa Beach.
It took the trooper 38 minutes on the July 4th weekend to arrive at the scene, according to the report. He had to travel from an accident with injuries he was working in DeFuniak Springs to get to the Hotz Avenue beach access where the woman had been run over.
"A non-emergency response on a normal week day could be 43 to 57 minutes," the report said.
The man driving the truck was at the scene for more than an hour, documents show, before the trooper "completed his crash investigation and switched hats to a criminal investigation for possible DUI."
The trooper administered field sobriety tests before telling the driver "he would be held accountable for the crash and cited as such," according to the report. It lists the charge as operating a motor vehicle in a careless or negligent fashion.
The incident report filed in the case states tests were "not given" for DUI or drugs.
The tests the crash report refers to are breath, blood or urine, King said.
"Field sobriety exercises are not considered a test."
Walton County sheriff's deputies arrived at the scene earlier than the trooper to assist emergency responders with crowd control. They have no investigative jurisdiction in cases involving a vehicle collision with a fatality or serious bodily injury, said Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Corey Dobridnia.
Deputies did notice the man involved was eating and drinking water before the trooper's arrival, Dobridnia said.
"He was eating and drinking on scene and they told him to stop," she said.
Dashboard camera footage released to the Daily News by the FHP shows that the trooper at the scene noted the driver smelled of alcohol and showed possible signs of impairment in his eyes and conduct.
After conducting field sobriety exercises, the trooper can be heard telling the driver, "I can tell you have been drinking just a little bit, I don't know if that's been earlier in the day or at some point."
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The trooper noted he observed slight indications of an eye condition called nystagmus, "which tells me there is some impairment, but you are not impaired enough that you can't drive."
The driver was advised that he would not be arrested for DUI but that other charges related to the crash were pending based on the victim's injuries.
The driver was then escorted to his vehicle and allowed to leave the area.