Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Who Says Officers Exaggerate, I DO!

Austin DWI Defense

It is not all about the quantity of arrests, but also the quality of the arrest!

The Palm Beach Post reported that one of the North Palm Beach officers is under investigation for making bad arrests.

To the Palm Beach County chapters of the Traffic Safety Council and Mothers Against Drunk Driving, North Palm Beach police officer Salvatore Mattino is a crackerjack cop.

So much so that they've given him awards for the prolific number of drunken driving arrests he has made.

That attitude troubles some of Mattino's fellow officers, not to mention the motorists — a good number of them never prosecuted — whom he has busted.

Indeed, during one of Mattino's DUI arrests 13 months ago, a fellow North Palm Beach police officer had a heated argument with him over what he said was a bogus DUI bust, and threatened to arrest Mattino if he went through with it.

Mattino made the arrest anyway.

Now Mattino's ardent pursuit of drunken drivers has put him and the village of North Palm Beach on the receiving end of a federal lawsuit filed in December, claiming that the village and the officer have systematically made bad DUI arrests and maliciously prosecuted them.

"I think this officer is overzealous," said attorney Val Rodriguez, who also has sued Mattino and the village in state court on behalf of his client, Elliot Schecter.

Schecter contends that one year ago Mattino pulled him over for driving 67 mph in a 35-mph zone.

Mattino asked Schecter, 35, to submit to a series of roadside sobriety tests, which Mattino said he performed badly. Schecter was then arrested and taken to the Palm Beach County Jail. Once there, he agreed to a breath test. The result: 0.00 — no sign of alcohol.

That might have ended Schecter's long night, except Mattino then asked him to give a urine sample. He eventually tested negative for drugs, and the case was dismissed.

Schecter's attorney contends that Mattino often subjects motorists to roadside sobriety tests without probable cause to suspect they are impaired. Those who pass a Breathalyzer test may then be asked to give a urine sample.

"We're challenging the validity of his stops," Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez says he's found at least 10 others out of 71 DUI arrests by Mattino between November 2001 and May 2004, including five drivers he jailed who blew a 0.00 on the breath test.

"Sal Mattino's car stops were very questionable," said Ira Peskowitz, a former colleague who now works as a Palm Beach County sheriff's deputy. "He's a good person. But just because you're a good person doesn't make you a good tactical police officer."

Even as the local chapters of the Traffic Safety Council and the Palm Beach County chapter of MADD gave him awards, his fellow officers were less impressed. That was never more evident than around 2:20 a.m. a week before Christmas in 2003 after Mattino had the driver of a Dodge van perform roadside sobriety tests. Another officer, Kenneth Mildworm, responded as a backup.

Mildworm said he watched the driver of the van, Todd Mauney of Lake Park, do "flawlessly" when told to stand on one leg. The heel-to-toe test?

"He did it better than I've seen anybody perform the test," Mildworm later told Capt. Warren, the internal affairs investigator.

"The cops were congratulating me on how well I did," Mauney recalls today.

Mattino had allowed Mauney, 42, to get back in his van when the results of a license tag check he requested came back. Mauney, it turned out, had two prior DUIs. Mattino then placed him under arrest.

Mildworm objected, saying that Mattino had no probable cause to detain Mauney.

Mauney was taken to jail after a sergeant was called to the scene to mediate the dispute. Then-Chief Duke Johnson later recommended that the state attorney drop the case, and prosecutors did so.

Rodriguez, the attorney, thinks it is significant that some of Mattino's fellow police officers have voiced concerns about his DUI arrests since they tend to stick up for each other.

"If other officers have problems with the way he's arresting people, you can rest assured he's making bad arrests," Rodriguez said. "The blue code is tough to crack."

Please give us a call if you are wrongfully arrested in Austin for DWI.