- State Rep. Dane Eagle was arrested for DUI last week in Tallahassee
- Frmr Congressman Trey Radel was arrested for purchasing cocaine last year in Washington, D.C.
- Radel resigned his position in Congress and spent time in rehab
Another arrest of a local politician brings criminal matters to the coffee shops around Southwest Florida. People I talk to generally agree that Trey Radel’s resignation from Congress was the right thing to do, but there doesn’t seem to be the level of anger regarding Dane Eagle’s DUI arrest. Though it doesn’t help that Eagle was recently quoted as saying that elected officials need to be held “to a higher standard”.
Legally, the offenses are not greatly different in terms of severity. Both charges are classified as misdemeanors, which are generally considered minor type offenses. Neither of them have been charged with felonies, as was former Lee County commissioner Tammy Hall. Neither offense would affect their civil rights, and neither has mandatory incarceration, though it could be a possibility, as they are criminal offenses. In fact, both charges carry a maximum 180 days in jail as a potential penalty in their respective jurisdictions. They are technically equivalent offenses. However, the nature of the offenses give people different reactions.
Many people feel more strongly about the cocaine charge, because the stigma of hard drugs, and the potential professional implications on a user, especially if abuse becomes a problem. That said, alcohol abuse can become a problem. There was information that Radel’s use had been ongoing, but at this time there is no evidence that the allegations against Eagle, which are still just allegations, are anything more than a one-time incident. In Florida, Radel’s charge would have been taken much more seriously. Any controlled substance possession is a felony, with exception of a small amount of marijuana. Purchase is actually an enhanced charge, and as a second degree felony, could be subject to 15 years in prison. Washington, D.C. does not consider a personal amount to be so serious.
Ironically, Eagle’s DUI in Florida could be considered more serious, as there are more mandatory minimum obligations for DUI offenses, including higher fines, community service, driver’s license suspensions, and classes that have to be taken if he is convicted. Radel will avoid even receiving a conviction if he completes his probation: that’s not available if Eagle ends up pleading or being found guilty of DUI. Also, many people consider DUI more serious because it puts other people at risk. He could have killed someone if he was driving under the influence, while personal use drug possession does not have the disregard for others associated with DUI.
Also worth noting is the way each conducted himself when detained by cops. Radle was completely cooperative and apologetic, immediately taking responsibility for his actions. Eagle denied having anything to drink, despite the officers description of an odor of alcohol, stumbling, and a bad driving pattern. Also, a picture has surfaced on social media that appears to be Eagle drinking from an oversized beer stein, and shark-tank.com estimates was posted Sunday evening before the arrest. That would not prove he was impaired, which he is still entitled to have heard in court before judgment is passed. Frankly, any misdemeanor charge is unlikely to reflect such a serious offense as to end someone’s career: their ability to do their job should be decided on actual merit.
More reading, with details on arrest: https://crimcourts.wordpress.com/2014/04/23/dane-eagle-arrested-charged-with-dui/