Allen County police officers pulled over Councilman Paul G. Moss, R-at large, driving a black Cadillac at 2:31 a.m. in the area of Dupont Road and Dupont Circle Drive, according to a Fort Wayne police report.
A Fort Wayne police officer on drunken-driving patrol became involved in the investigation when sheriff’s officers asked that he come to the scene to administer sobriety tests to Moss. Police said such a call for assistance is not uncommon, especially with drunken-driving patrols working.
By calling an officer from another agency who is doing only drunken-driving calls – sometimes due to a grant in which that officer must make a specific number of stops or “contacts” – officers with the agency that initiated the investigation can then be freed for other duties, according to Fries and other police sources.
The city officer was delayed by another stop, though, and asked the county officer to bring Moss to the Bud Meeks Justice Center downtown so he could perform the test.
By 3:19 a.m., with computer records showing the sheriff’s officers still at the scene of the traffic stop, the city officer was told no investigation would be done. He then had a brief conversation with a county officer identified as “Officer Stuckey.”
“I spoke with Officer Stuckey, who advised me that per Sheriff Fries, we were to disregard any further,” the city police report said.
Fries, also a Republican, said in a phone interview Monday he did not call off any investigation and that statement attributed to Stuckey in the report is inaccurate.
According to Fries, Moss called him at 3 a.m. to say that he had been pulled over by his officers. Fries recounted that Moss said he was picking up his daughter and her friends.
Moss did not return a call for comment Monday.
Fries said he spoke with officers at the scene, but at no time did he instruct them not to arrest Moss or let him go.
“The officer told me, ‘I was just going to have him get a ride home. I think he had something to drink but I don’t think he’s drunk,’ ” Fries said.
The officers told Fries that Moss had a group of five or six people in their 20s in his car and that the car smelled like alcohol, according to the sheriff. Moss also refused to take any field sobriety tests or a portable breath test, Fries said.
According to Fries, refusing to take these tests at the scene of a traffic stop is not against the law and does not result in the suspension of someone’s license. These tests are not certified and only lead to probable cause, Fries said.
Refusing a certified breath test – like one administered at the Allen County Jail – can lead to the suspension of one’s license, Fries said.
The Journal Gazette tried to verify that interpretation of the law with several local attorneys and received mixed answers as to whether it was correct. Several websites made by or for Indiana defense attorneys specializing in drunken-driving cases say to refuse portable breath tests because they are not certified.
Fries said he did ask Moss, who told the sheriff he had a drink hours before driving, why he refused the breathalyzer.
“He said, ‘I’m not going to take one of those tests. I just refused,’ ” said Fries, recounting his conversation with Moss.
Fries said he told the investigating officer at the scene it was his discretion whether there was enough probable cause to make Moss take a certified breath test at the jail.
“I told the officer, ‘I’m not going to tell you to not do it. That’s your business,’ ” Fries said.
To his understanding, his officers allowed Moss to get a ride home, Fries said. He added that this situation is not unique . . .I'm sure that anybody who has ever been arrested for drunk driving will take strong exception to Sheriff Fries' comment that the handling of Councilman Moss' case was not unique. To the contrary, the actions of the police seem quite extraordinary. Most reasonable persons would conclude that Moss' call to the Sheriff amounted to a free get out of jail card.