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Action News Uncovers Law That Protects DUI Offenders

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Updated: 2/14 10:54 am
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A law to protect you may also be protecting repeat DUI offenders.

Action News found 1 out of every 100 drivers in Duval County has three or more DUI convictions.

Action News crunched those numbers from data requested from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

Action News discovered a law passed in 1994 protects the information of all drivers, including those with repeat drunken driving arrests. 

Action News went looking for information on drunken drivers in the region, but state employees could only give us the number of people with multiple arrests, not individual information.

State lawmakers passed the Driver Privacy Protection Act in response to a number of stalking instances on abortion providers and patients. At the time, anyone could obtain addresses tied to a person's driver's license.

The law also may have the unintended consequence of keeping repeat DUI offenders information private.

Cho Roberts is one of more than 9,915 repeat DUI offenders with three of more convictions currently living in Duval, Clay, St. Johns or Nassau counties.

Action News obtained video from a Clay County deputy's cruiser of Roberts' most recent DUI arrest in October 2013. You can see Roberts clearly incoherent for the entire 30-plus minutes of the recording. Deputies say he was barey able to communicate. You can see his head wobbling, his eyes shut and even him falling to his face on the pavement while trying to stand.

Roberts had just hit two cars in the middle of the day on Blanding Boulevard, both with children inside, then fled to his apartment complex. He stopped next to a playground with more than a dozen children nearby. Clay County deputies say they found a bottle of whiskey, vodka, wine bottles and pills all inside his truck.  He was not licensed to drive. That's because his license was still suspended from his 2012 DUI arrest. This arrest was also near his same apartment complex.

Even if his neighbors had wanted to know if he was a repeat DUI offender, they would not have been able to easily find out. The Driver Privacy Protection Act keeps the information of all drivers private to prevent identity theft.  That includes address, Social Security numbers, or drivers license numbers.

"It is a conscious choice they are making. No one goes out to a bar and is surprised they get drunk," says Clay County Deputy Jacob Saunders.

Saunders arrested Cho in 2013. He has been working for CCSO for ten years and has extensive experience working on the DUI patrols. "I would like to hope he can change, but based on his historical record, I don't know if that's going to happen," Saunders said.

While Action News interviewed Deputy Saunders near the scene of the crash, Roberts walked by.

Roberts agreed to talk on camera about his crimes.

"Ninety days in jail is a lot of time to reflect to understand the wrong that I really did. It's the best AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) I've ever gone to," Roberts said.

Roberts is an Air Force veteran. He says he had just lost his father, younger brother and his job.

"I am ashamed. I'm very glad and fortunate I didn't kill anybody. It's not worth the risk to innocent people. The laws are there to protect people," said Roberts.

"I think if it's criminal, we have a right to know," said Rosa DuBose, a former prosecutor.

DuBose now works as an Associate Dean at Florida Coastal School of Law.

DuBose said the law protects our privacy, but it also protects people like Roberts.

Mandatory alcohol counseling and permanent loss of driving privileges she believes should also be considered.

"If you are caught three times, the the public should not be subjected to your driving on the public roads," said DuBose.

Action News Lynnsey Gardner asked, "We should have a right to know?"

DuBose replied, "You should have a right to know."

It's something Roberts even agreed with.

Gardner asked, "If we have the power to know about repeat sex offenders in our neighborhood, should we also have the power as the public to know about repeat DUI offenders like yourself?"

Roberts said, "Absolutely, I am ashamed, but like I said, I've learned my lesson."

Action News also talked to an accident victim from Roberts most recent accident in 2013, who says he is accumulating thousands of dollars in medical bills while getting treatment for his accident-related injuries because Roberts did not have insurance.

Roberts says he is getting counseling; his license has now been revoked for 10 years. His goal is to turn his life around and be a good example to his young son.

So while Action News can't give you a list of names for the repeat DUI offenders in your area, Action News can tell you how many there are in your local counties.
Below is the number of residents with three or more DUI convictions as given by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

Duval County: 7,158
Clay County: 1,142
St. Johns: 939
Nassau: 676
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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of Action News Jacksonville

Caesar1 - 2/25/2014 8:11 PM
0 Votes
If his liscence is revoked for ten years, why is he pumping gas to a vehicle???

Gunny48 - 1/30/2014 8:12 PM
0 Votes
At least this guy is getting the help he needs & actually admits his error. Good luck to him and I am sorry about his losses.
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