DUI Charge Against Tampa TV Anchor Dismissed

Unsurprisingly, Hillsborough County prosecutors have agreed to dismiss a DUI charge against Tampa morning news anchor Russell Rhodes. In exchange, Rhodes will plead no contest to misdemeanor obstruction of justice charges later this week.

Rhodes’ DUI defense attorney negotiated the plea agreement with the state attorney’s office after a Hillsborough County trial judge excluded blood-alcohol tests in the case. The judge ruled that the evidence was inadmissible because Rhodes did not voluntarily consent to give a blood sample under the law. Prosecutors chose not to appeal the ruling.

Without the evidence of Rhodes’ blood alcohol level, prosecutors would have had an extremely difficult time proving the DUI charges beyond a reasonable doubt. While it is not technically impossible to prove that a defendant drove while under the influence of alcohol, the absence of a breathalyzer (which was not given in the Rhodes case) or blood analysis severely hampers the state’s ability to convince a jury of intoxication.

The judge’s ruling certainly sends a message to local law enforcement that the courts expect the requisite procedures to be followed, especially when it comes to safeguarding the constitutional rights of those detained. Cutting corners and straying from policy are not acceptable. The ruling bolsters the efforts of local Tampa defense attorneys and forces the police to toe the constitutional line.

Rhodes will perform 50 hours of community service and, in return, the state has agreed to withhold adjudication of guilt. The newsman will then have no conviction on his record.

The case was scheduled to begin trial on Monday.


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