Officer Testifies Baird was Impaired - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Officer Testifies Baird was Impaired

By Al Pefley email

Vero Beach, FL (WFLX)

Was a  top Treasure Coast  official drunk and way over the legal limit, or was he okay to drive safely without being a danger to himself and others?

That's the question the jury must decide in the DUI trial of Joe Baird, the Indian River County Administrator.  Testimony got underway today in Vero Beach.

Prosecutors say there was no mistaking it, county administrator Joe Baird was drunk that night when police stopped him, so drunk in fact an officer testified he could smell it on Baird's breath from six  feet away.

"His eyes were glassy, the way he spoke to me, his speech didn't seem normal," Vero Beach Police Lt. Matt Harrelson said. 

The officer testified Baird seemed unsteady on his feet, and his balance wasn't very good.

And the dashcam video shows Baird had difficulty with all five  roadside sobriety tests, at times losing his balance and finding it impossible to correctly count backwards. In fact the police officer says Baird did so badly on the test, he quote " slaughtered it."

"I asked him if he had been drinking and he said he had a few drinks is what he said. I was pretty confident that he was well over the legal limit for the state of Florida," Lt. Harrelson said.[Duration:0:04]

In opening statements to the jury, the prosecutor said the DUI evidence against Baird is solid.

"What you're going to see is this defendant physically and mentally impaired on the night he's driving May 16, 2009," assistant state attorney David Dodd said.

But the defense paints a different picture, saying the dashcam video of Baird doesn't prove anything.  "The state is charged with proving their allegations beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt and that proof does not exist in this case against Mr. Baird," said defense attorney Bobby Guttridge, in his opening statement. 

The defense says Baird may have had a couple of beers, but he was not too impaired to drive.

And the reason he did not perform well on the roadside sobriety tests is because he has vertigo, a condition that can sometimes make a person unsteady and unable to hold their balance.

The trial is expected to last at least until Wednesday.  Baird refused to take a breathalyzer test the night he was arrested.  And the defense says they have not decided if Baird will testify in his own defense.

He faces up to six months in jail and a $500 fine if convicted.

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