Miami Beach Police Officer Sentenced for Drunk Driving Injury Crash

December 3, 2010 by David S. Seltzer

South Florida residents who follow criminal defense news may remember reading about a long-running DUI case involving a Miami Beach police officer. Jesus Barrenechea was charged with leaving the scene of an injury accident in connection with a December 2007 crash, but the Florida Highway Patrol’s investigation was delayed by apparent lack of cooperation by Barrenechea’s colleagues. A recent article about the end of the case caught my eye as a Miami DUI criminal defense attorney. As the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported Nov. 30, the prosecution ended the day before, when Barrenechea pleaded no contest and received a sentence of two years of probation.

Barrenechea was originally investigated for drunk driving, driving on the wrong side of the road, failure to render aid, grand theft and making a false insurance claim. All of those charges stem from his crash on Dec. 6, 2007, when he allegedly drove the wrong way on Interstate 95 while intoxicated. The crash left three women in the other car with minor injuries. The FHP said Barrenechea ran away down an embankment and was found on a nearby street, showing signs of intoxication. Later, they accused him of making a false insurance claim by telling the insurer he was a passenger and asleep at the time of the crash; he received $24,000. He was ultimately charged only with leaving the scene, but his Fort Lauderdale drunk driving criminal defense lawyer said this was not special treatment, and that not enough evidence supported the insurance claims.

As a West Palm Beach intoxicated driving criminal defense attorney, I suspect he’s right. Prosecutors don’t bring charges they cannot prove because they know they will lose. If the FHP investigation couldn’t turn up enough evidence to prove drunk driving -- for example, if they didn’t have a blood-alcohol content reading -- they simply couldn’t give prosecutors enough to go to court. In Barrenechea’s case, this may be especially important because he was a police officer, and they can be fired for conduct that wouldn’t matter at other jobs. This may also be why he chose to plead no contest with adjudication withheld. That’s similar to a guilty plea, but leaves him certain civil rights that might otherwise be taken away, and may not count as a conviction on his record in future job searches.

Even if you’re not a police officer, a Florida drunk driving charge can cause major problems at work, at home and in your bank account. Never plead guilty until you call Seltzer Law, P.A. for a free consultation. To reach us, 24 hours a day and seven days a week, contact us through the Internet or call 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (1-888-843-3333).