A Lake County man has filed a federal lawsuit against Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco and one of his deputies, claiming his civil rights were violated when he was arrested on a DUI charge even though he registered a zero on a breath-alcohol test.
Cornelius Caldwell, 40, of Leesburg seeks a jury trial in the case that stems from his April 7, 2013, arrest, according to the lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Tampa.
Caldwell’s lawsuit and an arrest report released Wednesday by the sheriff’s office give competing versions of events.
Caldwell was traveling north on U.S. 301 in Dade City at 6:04 a.m. that day when he was stopped by Deputy Gene Smith.
The lawsuit says Caldwell had complete control of his automobile and exhibited no signs of alcohol or drug impairment. After he was pulled over, the lawsuit said, Caldwell did not smell of alcohol or exhibit signs of impairment, and he successfully passed the field sobriety tests Smith asked him to perform.
The arrest report, though, said Caldwell was stopped because he was driving 65 miles per hour in a 55 mph zone, and also had a license-tag light out. The deputy wrote in the report that Caldwell’s pupils were “very dilated” and not reacting to light.
Caldwell told the deputy that he was coming from a friend’s house and had “a few drinks” the night before, but denied any drug use, the arrest report said.
When Caldwell took the sobriety tests, he “performed poorly, displaying numerous signs of impairment,” the report said.
At that point, Caldwell was arrested on a driving under the influence charge and taken to the Land O’ Lakes Jail, both the lawsuit and the arrest report say.
After his arrest, Caldwell took the breath-alcohol test, and the lawsuit and the arrest report agree that the test registered as zero.
A urinalysis also indicated Caldwell was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the lawsuit said. But the arrest report said that during the urine test Caldwell tried to use toilet water to fill the cup and give that to Smith as his sample.
A new kit was then used for a second attempt and a “proper sample” was provided, the report said. The arrest report did not say what the results were because they were pending.
Caldwell, who also was given a written warning for unlawful speed and a tag light out, was later released from the jail without having to post bond, according to jail records.
In the lawsuit, Caldwell’s attorney claims the sheriff’s office’s action violated Caldwell’s constitutional rights to be “secure from unlawful restraint of his person and liberty” and to be “free from wrongful search and seizure.”
Sheriff’s spokesman Kevin Doll said the sheriff’s office is aware of the lawsuit, but would have no comment.