Judge Throws Out Criminal Charges In Ex-Firefighter DUI Case
Criminal charges against a former San Francisco firefighter, who hit a motorcyclist while driving a fire truck allegedly under the influence of alcohol in the year 2013, have been thrown out by a San Francisco Superior Court judge.
On Friday, Judge Kay Tsenin threw out criminal charges against former firefighter Michael Quinn on the basis that police did not have probable cause to arrest him. A civil lawsuit against Quinn and the city are still pending. Lack of proof is the main reason told by the judge to dismiss the criminal charges.
Jack Frazier, the motorcyclist who was hit by the fire truck that Quinn was driving on 29th of June 2013, in the city’s South of Market neighborhood, is being represented by lawyer Chuck Koro. The accident happened at about 11:30 p.m.
Koro, who specializes in cases of individuals who have been in motorcycle accidents, told that the gathering of proofs in the case was “bungled” in Quinn’s favor, but that this is not just about Quinn.
He also said that it is necessary that any firefighter who responds to work while under the influence of alcohol or any other intoxicant making him impaired, and gets into a collision, is held responsible for their wrong doings. According to him, nothing is to prevent the proof from being “bungled” again if a similar incident were to happen.
On Friday, when he learned the judge had thrown out the case, he “was very disappointed and angry”. He said that it is not a single incident and the San Francisco Fire Department has a history of alcohol-related issues.
The city requires doing more to make sure none of their firefighters are responding to work while under the influence of alcohol. A 2004 civil grand jury investigation showed that there was indeed an alcohol issue at the city’s fire stations.
Koro said on Monday that it has been over 10 years since the grand jury findings were released. “This is apparently a pervasive problem that hasn’t been addressed,” he said.
The 2004 grand jury investigation states, “Many SFFD personnel interviewed have witnessed on-duty drinking and other types of substance abuse” and that during the investigation, “on-duty consumption of alcohol and other drug abuse has been and continues to be tolerated in some stations. Some ranking officers in these stations are part of the problem”.
The grand jury’s findings show that when police officers were sent to stations to conduct investigations following up on alcohol-related tips, they were known to look the other way while firefighters disposed of alcohol. The grand jury’s finding also stated, “Misplaced loyalty can sometimes supersede proper reporting of on-duty alcohol consumption”.
In the case of Quinn, Koro said that he was allegedly caught on video surveillance at the Chieftain Irish Pub downing pitchers of water with colleagues following the accident, allegedly in a struggle to sober up. He added, “It’s just outrageous”.
According to the San Francisco Fire Department spokeswoman, Mindy Talmadge, a department breathalyzer was used at the accident spot after the accident but those results were only intended for internal use. Talmadge added that the breathalyzers are “not calibrated to the same exact pinpoint as police” breathalyzers, making the results non-admissible as evidence in a criminal trial.
She said Quinn resigned from his job after the accident.
Talmadge told that the fire department does not have any comment on the judge’s recent decision to throw out the case. According to her, the department has had an outside agency doing random drug and alcohol testing since San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White took up her post in the year 2004.
She said that in order for Quinn’s BAC level to be permissible as proof in court, police will have had to administer their own field sobriety test after the accident.
Koro told that Quinn allegedly left the accident spot. After drinking water, he came back to the spot after significant time had elapsed. He said, he also doesn’t understand why Quinn was not initially charged with felony hit-and-run, since he was allegedly not at the accident spot and was gone from there when police approached.
By leaving the scene, Quinn postponed police officers’ ability to take his blood sample to be tested for BAC level, which led to “bungled” proof.
The civil lawsuit claims that the city and Quinn exhibited “despicable conduct and conscious disregard for the rights and safety of others” and said that they should be held financially responsible for the injuries that Frazier sustained and the damages his motorcycle sustained.
The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office is considering appealing the judge’s decision in the criminal case.
District lawyer’s office spokesman Alex Bastian said, “We completely disagree with the judge’s ruling and are exploring all appellate options.”
News Source: www.SFAppeal.com