Flirtatious drunk driver gets break, passenger goes to jail

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by BRETT SHIPP

WFAA

Posted on June 17, 2011 at 6:26 AM

NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES

We expect the police to enforce the law, yet are relieved when they decide to cut us a break.

But one North Texas woman is outraged over the actions of two officers whom she believes let their discretion get out of hand.

Ferris police Oficer Christopher Ellis had just pulled over a suspected drunk driver last July when this tale of two females began.

In just minutes after the stop, Officer Ellis had the female driver out of the car and was giving her a breathalyzer test.   A driving while intoxicated charge plus a citation for having an unsecured child in the back seat would equate to a felony offense.

But as a dashcam video of the incident would reveal, the serious encounter appeared to turn playful as the officer loosened his resolve to assert his authority.

As Ellis administered the breathalyzer test, both he and the driver appeared to giggle and engage in playful banter.

Then — seconds later, according to the video exchange — the breathalyzer registered a 0.136, well over the legal limit of 0.08.

But rather than arresting the driver, Officer Ellis told her, "I'm gonna cut you a break this time."

Several times, the officer reiterated that he was doing her a favor. "Next time you ain't gonna get no break," Ellis is heard saying on the recording.

Meanwhile, sitting quietly in the front seat of the same car was 22-year-old Rebecca Bruce, whom Officer Ellis suspected had also been drinking.

Bruce told the officer she had had two drinks earlier in the evening, but insisted she was not drunk and volunteered to take a breathalyzer test as well.

This time, however, the officer was less charitable. Bruce was arrested for public intoxication.

The driver, who registered above the legal limit, was allowed to walk home.

"It was very humiliating," Bruce said.  "I've never been inside a jail, so I was just like, 'Oh my gosh, I don't belong here'. I was crying and everything."

Bruce hired attorney Monica Bishop to handle her case.  Bishop said she was alarmed when she saw how her client was treated differently than the suspected drunk driver.

"The first girl that he made contact with was awful flirtatious, and my client was clearly not flirtatious," Bishop said. "Of course, you are not under a duty to flirt with him; nor does she have to give up any of her civil rights while she's speaking to him."

When Bishop showed the video to prosecutors, they immediately dismissed the case.

Even though the case was dismissed, Ferris Police Chief Sam Love said he supports his officer's decision in the field. 

"Maybe I would have done something different, maybe I wouldn't have. I don't know. I wasn't there," Chief Love said.

Love said he is now reviewing the case, but Bruce says a review now is too little, too late.

"That makes me mad," she said. "I feel like they had no right to do that. I wasn't even doing anything (wrong)."

Bruce said she may sue the City of Ferris, at least to get her legal fees back.

But what she can't get back is the respect she once had for those charged with upholding the law.

E-mail bshipp@wfaa.com

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