Black Man Charged With DUI After Police Open Sealed Bottle, Then Cite Container In Arrest

Body camera footage appears to show a police officer opening a sealed bottle of alcohol before that opened container is used to charge a Black man with a DUI in Tallahassee, Florida, according to a local media report.

Our Tallahassee first reported on the case of Calvin Riley Sr., 56, who was pulled over during a routine traffic stop last May and found to have a been driving with a suspended license. The news outlet notes that in Florida, officers are able to decide whether to ticket or arrest someone driving on a suspended license, but if they discover a second offense — like driving under the influence — they are required to arrest the person.

On body camera footage, Tallahassee Police Department Officer Kiersten Oliver speaks to the man before calling another officer for backup after expressing some belief that he smells like an illicit substance. Oliver and the other officer discuss asking the man to perform a voluntary sobriety test and then put them in the back of the officer’s patrol car after he refuses.

A search of the car yielded no marijuana, before Oliver discovers a small sealed bottle of liquor that she then opens with an audible noise of the seal cracking on camera. A sound of pouring can be heard on her body camera, and another body camera worn by a second officer shows her dumping the liquid out. Oliver then threw the bottle back into the car.

Body camera footage appears to show Oliver implying to the second officer that the bottle was open and the contents were in a thermos inside Riley’s vehicle.

The pair then call for a third officer to assist with an arrest, who is told there was a “bunch of alcohol stashed” in the car and that the container was open. An arrest report cites the open container as a reasoning for the DUI charge, although an officer described smelling alcohol on Riley’s breath at the time. The officer who wrote the report notes Riley told her he had had a “couple of drinks” at an area bar before he was pulled over.

Riley was arrested on probable cause of driving under the influence and is set to stand trial on the matter beginning Friday. The man told Our Tallahassee the episode cost him work and forced him to surrender his car after missing payments on the vehicle.

Oliver later said during a pre-trial hearing that she opened the bottle herself and poured the alcohol out, citing what she believed to be police department policy that prevented officers from impounding liquids as evidence.

Our Tallahassee notes there is no such policy.