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Drunk Driver Killed in Traffic Accident After Being Dropped Off

In a recent tragic incident, an allegedly drunk driver, 22-year-old Uriel Juarez Popoca, was killed after being dropped off by deputies at a local Taco Bell. According to the reports released by the Highway Patrol, there had been approximately six separate calls to 911 regarding drunk driving before 9 p.m. After finding him in his vehicle on the median, the deputies handcuffed Popoca and placed him in their vehicle. Thirty minutes later, the deputies dropped him off at a Taco Bell, advising him to call a friend or loved one for a ride home.

Approximately twelve minutes after that, a worker at the restaurant made three separate calls to 911 about Popoca's drunken behavior. In the third call, the restaurant employee stated that he had left the restaurant and was walking down Rt. 36. He was almost struck by several cars. At 10:34, another call was made by the driver of an SUV who stated he had struck a pedestrian on the side of the road, killing Popoca on site.

This immediately started an investigation into the officers involved with the arrest as their actions are being allegedly tied to his death. Lt. Anne Ralston, a Highway Patrol spokeswoman, had this to say regarding the incident: "The Highway Patrol and the sheriff's office are doing a joint investigation into their officers handling an incident of an allegedly impaired driver." At times like these, it is important to look into the responsibility of the arresting officer to reduce the danger posed by drunk drivers who are on the road.

When someone is found to be under the influence of alcohol and / or drugs, it is the responsibility of the arresting officer to make sure that they are taken off of the road. In the state of Florida, per Florida Statutes §316.193, when someone has been arrested for drunk driving, the arresting officers must wait to ensure that certain conditions are met for the defendant's release.

  • Defendant must have their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reduced to 0.05 percent or lower.
  • Must be a minimum of eight hours which have passed since the moment of the arrest.
  • Defendant's mental and physical capabilities have returned to normal.
  • Defendant may no longer be under the influence of drugs and / or alcohol.

By meeting the above conditions, the arresting officers can work to prevent tragedies such as the one described above. Drunk driving is nothing to take lightly and can be the cause of severe and even life-threatening in nature – not only to the alleged drunk driver, but those around them. At Thomas & Paulk, we recognize how dangerous drunk driving can be and we encourage those in the Tampa and surrounding areas to be safe behind the wheel. We also encourage law enforcement officers to take the necessary actions to help promote those who have been drinking and driving, including taking them into custody when necessary.

We, however, also recognize that there are situations where an arrest may be unlawful or wrongfully placed. In these cases, you may find yourself being criminally charged when you have done nothing wrong. We are here to help protect your rights in these situations. If you have been arrested for drunk driving due to wrongful police procedure or faulty tests, we encourage you to get the involvement of our firm. Throughout the years, we've been successful in helping clients in a variety of cases to protect their rights against the possibility of conviction. If you are interested in learning more about what can help you, call us today.

Categories: DUI
Tampa DUI Defense Attorney Thomas & Paulk, P.A. Attorneys at Law