Ocala Deputy Sherriff Suspended After Faulty DUI Stop

Finebloom, Haenel & Higgins

On the early morning hours of January 18, 2014, in Ocala, Florida, 26 year old Matthew Tillander was pulled over after driving over 70 in a 55 MPH zone.  The Marion County officer who pulled Tillander over apparently smelled alcohol on Tillander's breath and was beginning to do field sobriety tests when Tillander answered his cell phone.  Tillander's father was a well known businessman in Ocala and had apparently called friends of his in law enforcement to find out what the purpose of the stop was.  The call that the younger Tillander got was supposedly from the sheriff wanting to speak to the officer who pulled him over, although that later proved not to be the case.  When the officer refused to take the call, he was called by deputy sheriff Tommy Bibb and asked not to take any further action in the suspected DUI case until the sheriff had been called directly and asked what to do about the situation.  Some time later Bibb called the officer back and told him that the orders from the sheriff were to do what he normally would have done in such as stop.  The officer still let Tillander go with a warning for speeding, making a friend drive his car because Tillander had been drinking.

After this incident, the sheriff ordered an internal investigation into what had happened the night Tillander was pulled over for apparently drinking and driving but had been let go.  In the course of the investigation, it appeared that although the officer was told that he could do what he felt needed to be done when it came to the arrest, that he felt that he was being told by Bibb not to arrest the man for the suspected DUI at all.  The officer told investigators that he most likely would have arrested Tillander if it weren't for Bibb's involvement.  It was apparent from the investigation that Bibb had influenced the investigation into the alleged DUI after being called by Tillander's father.  As a result of the investigation's findings, Bibb was suspended for two days, a punishment which most see as not being severe enough.  The Florida Fraternal Order of Police may ask the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to do its own investigation into what happened that night.

Tillander is facing charges from a December arrest as well, when he was pulled over for felony drug possession and resisting arrest.  In the incident where he was pulled over, he could have possibly faced a first time DUI charge along with punishment for speeding and driving on an expired license.  The charge for the DUI could have been as high as 6 months in jail along with a fine and suspension of his license. 

However, there is no way to charge him for that now because the evidence is gone.  Absent a completed field sobriety test or a breathalyzer, there is no way to determine what Tillander's blood alcohol level was at the time of his arrest, even if he did smell of alcohol as the officer believed.  Unfortunately, because of the interference in the case, no other evidence was collected so that Tillander could be charged with drinking and driving.   Without evidence proving beyond a reasonable doubt that his blood alcohol level was above .08%, there is nothing that prosecutors can do.