When you see the flashing red and blue lights behind your car, you may expect a number of things to happen. You expect the officer to ask to see your license and registration and tell you why he or she stopped you. If you were stopped for speeding, you can expect a warning or a ticket and if you were stopped for driving under the influence, you can expect to be asked to step out the car so you can perform field sobriety tests. What you don't expect is for the officer to act unprofessionally and you especially don't expect the officer to take money out of your wallet.
However, this is exactly what happened in Florida. Video from a Volusia County sheriff's own body camera shows the officer taking money out of a suspected drunk driver's wallet during an arrest in August of 2016. The man responsible for this misconduct, 33-year old John Braman, is no longer working for the sheriff's department and his actions have "prompted prosecutors to drop charges in at least 18 cases." In addition, "[t]he State Attorney's Office will send letters to defense attorneys in every case Braman has ever been involved in, alerting them to the allegations against the former deputy." According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, "Braman has had a hand in about 800 arrests during his career."
Braman has admitted to taking the money. While he is under investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, he has not been charged with a crime. His former boss, Sheriff Mike Chitwood, has condemned his actions, stating, "It's a black eye on law enforcement, which is already under attack . . . He made a conscious decision to be a thug with a badge and he was shaking people down." Chitwood is, according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, "known for not holding back when asked for his opinion."
One of the eighteen cases where charges were dropped was a case against Charlotte Gronio. Gronio's had been arrested for DUI by Braman. She was "adjudicated guilty on Jan. 25, and was serving 12 months of probation." In addition, the man who Braman was arresting when his body camera captured the incriminating footage is also going to have his charges dropped. He has been "serving six months' probation on a reckless driving charge, which was reduced from DUI." It remains to be seen how many more people find their charges dismissed. Once the defense attorneys who represented those in cases involving Braman receive their letters, they will "have to file motions to start the process of attempting to reverse the convictions." The next step would be for prosecutors to "review any motions and decide whether Braman's testimony is or was the only proof on a case-by-case basis."
While many officers do perform their jobs admirably, there are those that take advantage of their positions. That's why it is important to make sure that officers have followed the proper procedures and are not abusing their power. If you or your loved one has been arrested for driving under the influence, please do not hesitate to contact Wolff Defense today.