Ever heard of anyone being charged with DWI in federal court? Neither had I, until I learned about a police detective in El Paso, Texas, who's accused of driving drunk at Fort Bliss, a sprawling Army post.
It turns out that federal DWI charges are somewhat unusual but not unheard of. Most DWI cases are filed in state courts, not federal courts.
|An El Paso, Texas, police detective faces a federal DWI charge after allegedly driving drunk at Fort Bliss, an Army post.|
"The defense of a DWI in federal court is really no different than it would be in state court. The evidence is the same, the standards for proving intoxication are the same and your questions on cross-examination will be virtually the same," Houston criminal defense attorney Jimmy Ardoin says. "The only thing that is different is that as a lawyer in federal court, you are not always entitled to ask questions in jury selection, which can make it a little tougher to weed out those who are really unfavorable toward your client."
Ardoin explains that a motorist can be charged with DWI in federal court if he's caught driving drunk on federal property, like a military base or national park, or someplace that's under federal jurisdiction, such as the District of Columbia.
If you're busted for DWI in a national park, according to Ardoin, you can be hit with a Class B misdemeanor. Maximum punishment: six months in federal prison, a $5,000 fine and five years of probation.
If you're nabbed for DWI on any other federal property, you're subject to the drunken driving laws of the place where the crime allegedly occurred, Ardoin says. In the Fort Bliss case, that's Texas.
Edric Ray Flores, 34, a detective with the El Paso Police Department, faces six months in federal prison and a fine of $2,000 if he's convicted of a federal DWI charge that was filed Nov. 18, 2011. Ardoin says Flores also could have his Texas driver's license suspended. Army cops arrested Flores on Oct. 24, 2011, at Fort Bliss after spotting him driving in an "erratic manner," according to federal court documents.
Among other things, the arresting cops said Flores was "jittery," his speech was slurred and his eyes were glossy and bloodshot. While protesting that he wasn't "that drunk," Flores did admit he'd been drinking alcohol, according to court records.
When Flores was pulled over, the detective claimed he was working undercover at Fort Bliss, which encompasses more than 1 million acres in Texas and New Mexico. However, cops determined Flores was lying about the undercover gig, court records show. Flores refused to take a field sobriety test or a breathalyzer test.
As of Nov. 29, Flores was on paid administrative leave but remained an employee of the city, according to the El Paso Police Department.