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Florida Forest Service
successfully completes
largest prescribed burn
in the history of
Goethe State Forest

By Ludie Bond of the Florida Forest Service
Published Jan. 28, 2015 @ 10:27 p.m.
     LEVY COUNTY -- the Florida Forest Service successfully completed burning all of the 12,325 acres Wednesday (Jan. 28) on the largest prescribed burn ever conducted on Goethe State Forest.


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     Residual smoke from the burn will remain in the area through the weekend. Road closures will remain in place at U.S. Highway 19 and Levy County Road 336, State Road 121 and CR 337, and CR 336 and CR 40 due to smoky conditions. Drivers should use caution.

     The Florida Highway Patrol is continuing to monitor conditions, FHP Lt. Daniel Caulk said.
     The mop-up phase of the operation will begin tomorrow and last for a couple of days. ‘Mop-up’ activities consist of extinguishing or removing burning material near control lines, felling snags (standing dead trees) and extinguishing hot spots to secure the fire’s edge and reduce residual smoke.
     Crews will remain overnight to monitor the fire activity and the smoke on area roadways.  
     The Florida Forest Service manages more than 1 million acres of public forest land while protecting 26 million acres of homes, forestland and natural resources from the devastating effects of wildfire. For more information about the Florida Forest Service, go to www.FloridaForestService.com.


No free DUI pass in Levy County
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Jan. 23, 2015 @ 11:17 p.m.
Updated Jan. 24, 2015 @ 8:37 a.m.

    
LEVY COUNTY -- In what appears to be a promotion by people who want to protect all Americans from self-incrimination and from unwarranted searches, which are rights protected by the United States Constitution, some people in a car on New Year's Eve went through a DUI checkpoint in Levy County without even having to roll down the window.
     This is not going to be the case if a car is pulled over by a law enforcement officer, though, or if a driver had shown an officer reason to suspect the driver was intoxicated. In that instance, they would not pass so easily through a checkpoint.
     There is more than one video recording of this exercise where the participating driver has a Ziploc bag (or some other brand of plastic bag) on a string hanging from the window. The bag protects the paper from rain. The paper shows a valid registration for the car as well as proof of insurance. Also hanging out the window and attached to this "kit" is the driver's license.

Prevent012215    
Levy County Prevention Coalition Chairman Crystal Seley and LCPC Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Lewis are seen at the start of the meeting. Other coalition directors present were Co-Chairman Annie Battles, Coordinator of Community Based Projects Rhesa L. Collop, Treasurer (and founder) Robert Wells and Board Member Edith Brown.

     As part of this "kit," there is also a statement for the officers noting that the driver is invoking his or her right to not speak. The driver leaves the window rolled up to avoid self-incrimination by the potential of the officer smelling alcohol, and the driver does not speak to the officer so that there is no debate about whether a statement was made by a person with slurred speech.
 Prevent012215B    Deputies look at the bag then waive the driver through the checkpoint in Levy County, which was conducted on the night of New Year's Eve and into the first hours of New Year's Day 2015. It's an experiment Fairdui.org claimed has worked seven times in the state of Florida.

Levy County Deputy and DRE Brandin Sullivan speaks about the program where he can serve as a witness to help prosecutors in cases against people who are intoxicated on drugs other than alcohol.

     At the end of the Thursday afternoon (Jan. 22) meeting of the Levy County Prevention Coalition, Levy County Sheriff Robert "Bobby" McCallum Jr. spoke about the night and how his deputies handled it.
     Sheriff McCallum said they were prepared for this group of people. There was no reason to suspect that they were intoxicated, he said. A walk around the vehicle showed the officers that the lights were all working, he added. Hence, they were waived through.
     McCallum wants the residents and visitors of Levy County to know the LCSO is keeping streets safe. This stunt to help test the exercise of rights protected for all Americans
     Drunk drivers might create this DUI Checkpoint Kit, he said. However if a deputy with the LCSO pulls a person over, it will be from probable cause that allows that action, McCallum said.
     While this stunt worked at the DUI checkpoint in Levy County on U.S. Highway 19 just north of Chiefland on New Year’s Eve, hanging this bag out the window is not the end of action required by a driver who is pulled over.
     If a law enforcement officer observes something such as erratic driving, speeding, careless driving, willful and wanton reckless driving, an open container in a vehicle, drugs in plain view in a vehicle, etc., then that circumvents any such "DUI Checkpoint Kit" and the deputy, policeman, trooper or other duly sworn officer could lawfully and reasonably request the individual to open the window, step out of the vehicle, etc., to conduct an investigation.
     “We balance between protecting everyone’s Constitutional rights and safety,” McCallum said. “We do not want to violate anyone’s rights. We want to remove impaired drivers from the roadways, where they endanger the lives and property of other people.”
     The sheriff said the officers in the LCSO do not harass people. They just want to keep everyone safe. He said there have been enough needless deaths from drivers operating vehicles while they were under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
     One of the key officers participating in the DUI Checkpoint on New Year’s Eve in Levy County was LCSO Deputy Sheriff Brandin Sullivan.
     Sullivan was the guest speaker on Thursday at the Levy County Prevention Coalition meeting. He recently completed training in the Drug Evaluation and Classification (DEC) Program, also known as the Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) Program.
     Deputy Sullivan became one of approximately 240 DREs in Florida and is the first with the LCSO. That means there is about 1 percent of the law enforcement officers in Florida who have this certification.
     Sullivan has been an LCSO deputy since 2013. He continues performing all of his normal duties as a deputy, but his specialization is called upon and used now too. He received no extra pay after the certification, and there is no insignia added to his uniform from this specialization.
     He started his career in law enforcement in Marion County in 2007 after serving in the United States Army.
     Sullivan said he believes that as marijuana is decriminalized across the United States, there will be more car accidents and deaths as a result. There are already 8 percent of Americans who are regular marijuana smokers, he said statistics show.
     Rounding Levy County’s population to be 40,000 people, Sullivan said, means there could be as many as 3,200 people in this county who use marijuana on a regular basis. “How many of those people do you think drive?” he asked.
     Since October, Sullivan has made seven DUI arrests based on the persons being intoxicated on marijuana too much to drive.

Prevent012215C
(from left) LCSO Lt. Sean Mullins, who is retiring in the near future, Levy County Deputy and DRE Brandin Sullivan and LCSO Maj. Mike Sheffield. Also present were Levy County Sheriff Robert ‘Bobby’ McCallum Jr. and Undersheriff W.I. Brett Beauchamp III.

     With alcohol, there is an understanding that a person with a blood-alcohol content of .08 percent is too intoxicated to legally operate a vehicle. They are ‘intoxicated per se on alcohol.” There is no “per se” limit for marijuana, Sullivan said.
     “Every single person (of the seven DUI-marijuana arrestees) say ‘What’s the problem? I’m just high’,” Sullivan said, “because there is no education there. People think they can smoke marijuana and then drive a vehicle. And it is the exact opposite of that.”
     A spike in accidents including those with fatalities, are happening in Colorado, Sullivan said, because of the legalized use of marijuana in that state. He foresees Florida following Colorado in regard to legalized use of marijuana.
     Proving a person is impaired by their level of intoxication from marijuana, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, barbiturates, LSD and other forms of drugs is the duty of the Drug Recognition Expert, he said.
    The determination of intoxication begins with testing for alcoholic impairment, he said. If the driver is drunk on alcohol, then there is no need to go further, because there is no added penalty for poly-drug use. If the person is having a medical issue, such as from diabetes or a heart problem like stroke, then that driver is sent to the hospital for help.
     If the drive is not drunk on alcohol, does not have a medical issue and still shows symptoms of intoxication, then the DRE goes through a series of many examinations to determine which type of drug the person is abusing.
     Sheriff McCallum said he is glad that Deputy Sullivan was able to complete the rigorous education and training to complete the courses and pass the tests. Gilchrist, Dixie and Citrus counties do not have any DRE deputies, the sheriff said. Alachua County has four DRE deputies.
     McCallum said he wants to keep the number of fatal accidents on the highways of Levy County to be as few as possible. Not only is there now a DRE deputy, but other deputies are participating in traffic law enforcement.


 




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-- UPDATED --

WED.  JAN. 28    10:37 p.m.
Levy, Dixie, Gilchrist counties

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