TAMPA, Fla. – It was 1:00 a.m. on July 17, 2020, when Tampa Police Officer Corporal S. Mazza hit the pavement of I-275 West at 60 miles per hour from the Busch Boulevard entrance ramp. A gray Mazda CX-5 sport utility vehicle whizzed by him at an estimated speed of 100-miles per hour based on Mazza’s visual speed training. Mazza didn’t stop the vehicle for speeding until he traveled for two miles behind the driver, 20-year-old Taylor King of Indiantown, Florida, and pulled King over one-mile outside city limits at Fowler Avenue.
After the stop was made, Mazzo reportedly smelled alcohol on King’s breath and noticed she had “glassy, watery eyes.” By sheer coincidence, Florida Highway Patrol’s Trooper R. Palfy was driving down the interstate and pulled over to see if she could assist. Palfy is a DUI investigator and discovered King had alcohol on her breath with glassy, watery eyes and dilated pupils. She conducted a single DUI test called “horizontal gaze nystagmus,” which King performed poorly. She asked King if she would get into her patrol car to transport her to a safer place off the highway to conduct more DUI tests and make sure she could drive safely. Palfy’s report indicates that King consented. They went to 701 East Fletcher Avenue, where Gangnam Style Restaurant is located.
King failed the field sobriety tests and was arrested for driving while intoxicated. She then failed two breath tests registering at .138 and .140. The legal limit is .08. She was also cited for driving at 108 miles per hour, according to Mazza’s pace clocking test he conducted before he pulled her over. There was a six-month suspension placed on her driver’s license.
But now, Attorney E. Michael Isaak of Tampa wants King’s six-month driver license suspension rescinded, based on what he believes are illegal acts executed by Mazza and Palfy. Isaak filed a Petition against the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles after no success in the initial hearing where Mazza and Palfy’s acts were deemed “common sense.”
He declares Mazza made an unlawful arrest because he stopped King one mile outside the police department’s jurisdiction. He further declares Mazzo, as well as Palfy, had no “probable cause to test King for DUI, as diabetes can raise the smell of alcohol on the breath and breath test results, as does intoxication. “Suspicion is not the same as probable cause,” he explained. However, it is not known if the officers asked King if she was diabetic, and if they got an answer. Regardless, Florida appears to be more lenient on “probable cause” in cases of DUI stops, in an effort to save lives.
Isaak declares Palfy unlawfully made a “de facto arrest” because King was placed in the trooper’s vehicle where she was immediately restrained. “It’s like being placed in a cell,” Isaak said. Inside the vehicle, a back seat passenger cannot open the vehicle’s doors and cannot get into the front seat. This is viewed in the Petition as an unlawful arrest and violation of the Fourth Amendment regarding “searches and seizures,” although King was not told she was arrested, was simply being transported to a safer place and was not driven to a police station or jail. Isaak was asked how this incident represents an unlawful “defacto arrest” when Palfy reports King consented to being transported in her vehicle when asked. Isaak replied, “She did not consent.”
Isaak was asked how often law enforcement officials conduct field sobriety tests on the highway compared to other safer locations requiring transport. “It’s about 50/50,” he said.
A court hearing has been scheduled for December 15.