Seminole County deputy suspended for May DUI
A Seminole County deputy was recently suspended for more than 20 days and stripped of her detective title following a May DUI arrest after she crashed her agency-issued vehicle in Apopka, records show.
Deputy Sheriff Theresa Rodgers was suspended last month for 172 hours — about 21 8-hour shifts — following an investigation into the arrest, according to a discipline notice released to the Orlando Sentinel in response to a public records request.
Rodgers, 52, was arrested for DUI after Apopka police officers said she crashed into two guardrails about 11:30 p.m. May 22 on Mt. Plymouth Road.
Officers found her “slumped over the center console of the vehicle,” but she “eventually came to,” an arrest report said. After she was helped out of the vehicle, she said she had consumed alcohol, and one officer noted he could smell alcohol on her breath, the report said.
An officer later interviewed her at a Sanford hospital, where Rodgers denied requests to perform a field sobriety test, breath test or blood test, the report said.
Rodgers told the officer that she had been driving northbound on Mt. Plymouth Road when “she saw eyes from an animal and swerved … [and] did not remember anything after that,” the report said.
She said said that she had been at a bar in Sorrento before the crash, where she had three glasses of wine, the report said.
“I observed her eyes to be bloodshot and glassy,” the officer wrote in the report. “I could smell the odor of an alcoholic beverage emitting from her breath.”
According to the investigation, Rodgers was driving north on Mt. Plymouth Road when she “failed to maneuver the curves in the roadway,” striking the guardrail on the north side of the road, then “crossed the center line, entering the southbound traffic lane.”
Rodgers was not on duty at the time of the crash, but was driving an SCSO vehicle, records show. She was not wearing a seat belt.
While Rodgers was initially charged by the Orange-Osceola State Attorney’s Office with DUI, prosecutors later declined to pursue the charge after a judge found the Apopka officer who arrested her acted outside of his jurisdiction, court records show.
Rodgers’ attorney, Stuart Hyman, had argued that the Apopka police officer did not have the authority to interrogate or arrest Rodgers in the Sanford hospital, records show.
Hyman said Tuesday that the judge’s decision affirmed “this was not a valid arrest.”
The internal SCSO investigation, however, found that Rodgers violated policies on conduct unbecoming a deputy and vehicle operation.
Rodgers “admitted to drinking alcoholic beverages and then driving [her] department issued vehicle,” the disciplinary letter said.
“Your actions resulting in this violation were unacceptable, placed members of the community at potential risk and will not be tolerated,” SCSO investigators wrote.
But Rodgers insisted the drinks not make her “impaired to the point where I couldn’t drive” and said the crash was the result of the animal, discipline records show.
SCSO officials initially said they planned to terminate Rodgers, noting in the letter that she a had prior disciplinary and crash history, though details about those instances were not included.
However, the letter said SCSO officials also considered that Rodgers was remorseful, and that the roadway where she crashed is known for accidents. The letter also said Rodgers has done an “exceptional job serving the elderly members of our community” and has been with the agency for 24 years.
SCSO spokeswoman Kim Cannaday said Rodgers most recently worked as a detective in Elder Crimes.
In addition to the 172-hour suspension, Rodgers was stripped of her designation as detective and prohibited from using agency vehicles. Cannaday said Rodgers had completed her suspension as of Tuesday and has been reassigned to work in the Seminole County courthouse.