Earlier this week, I posted on a DUI case in Mesa, Arizona where a police officer oddly saw signs of drunkenness in a woman whose blood-alcohol concentration came back .00.
Now out of San Jose, California comes a story about a well-connected former police officer who, apparently flat-out knockered, rear-ended an Escalade, which then flipped the median and struck an oncoming Jetta.
The ex-cop’s name is Sandra Woodall. We only know that thanks to the San Jose Mercury News. The police department wouldn’t release her name. Woodall now works as an investigator for the Santa Clara district attorney’s office. Her husband is a sergeant with the local police department. And her father-in-law was formerly a lieutenant at the same department. He’s also now an investigator for the district attorney’s office.
Unlike the case in Mesa, where a police officer reported he could smell booze on the breath of a woman who hadn’t been drinking, the cops in San Jose pointedly couldn’t smell liquor on the breath a former cop who was so drunk, she couldn’t remember what year it was.
Newly obtained court documents show there was ample evidence a former San Jose police officer was drunk when she crashed her SUV in March, but police chose not to question her about alcohol use or test her blood.
Soon after Sandra Woodall’s March 25 multi-car accident, she told paramedics that she was just out of rehab, had consumed “a lot” of alcohol and was so disoriented that she thought it was 2006, according to documents. Both of the paramedics who treated Woodall noted the strong smell of alcohol on her breath.
Sgt. Will Manion – a well-regarded senior officer who was the police supervisor on the scene – noted none of these things. Instead, Manion seemed to EMTs to be coaching Woodall on the correct way to answer their questions. He later tried to prevent them from taking her to a hospital, an EMT alleged. Manion insisted that he had no evidence she was drunk, and was trying to determine whether she could be forced to go to the hospital against her will.
But instead of exploring the possibility that Woodall was intoxicated, officers at the scene concluded that the speeding accident could have been caused because Woodall was eating egg rolls from Jack in the Box while she was driving. They decided not even to cite her for speeding – an unusual conclusion in so dramatic an accident.
The police didn’t give Woodall a field sobriety test. They didn’t ask her to take a breath test. And they didn’t take her blood.
Woodall has now finally been charged with felony drunk driving, though no thanks to the investigating officers. It took an outraged phone call to senior police officials from one of the people Woodall hit to get a proper investigation.
I’m sure Woodall will lose her job with the DA’s office. The real question is whether the officers who covered up for her will lose their jobs, too.
Oh, and this certainly isn’t the first time police officers have been caught letting fellow officers off the hook for DWI.
Thanks to Dan G. for the tip.