FORT WORTH Tarrant County prosecutors are concerned that the drunken driving arrest of a DWI officer this month may cause more than 100 cases to sputter in court.
Many suspected drunken drivers including some who caused wrecks could go unpunished and untreated because prosecutors say they can no longer use Officer Nicolas Ramirez as a witness.
The four-year veteran was arrested on January 2 on suspicion of driving while intoxicated in Keller. The SUV he was driving weaved out of its lane and onto the shoulder, in plain view of a police officer. His blood alcohol content was more than twice the legal limit of 0.08.
Through an open records request, News 8 learned that officer Ramirez made 104 DWI arrests from August until his own arrest.
"They just can't prosecute those kinds of cases," said defense attorney Bill Ray. "It makes the DA's office look not credible. They're not going to do that. They shouldn't do it."
Ray, who is a former prosecutor for the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office, said most of the 104 cases are still pending.Casesinclude the third DWI arrest of Bobby Joe Busby, this time accused of causing a four car pile-up.
On New Year's Day, Ramirez made DWI and narcotics arrests following a crash on Granbury Road in southwest Fort Worth.
At 2:05 a.m. on Christmas, Officer Ramirez arrested a driver seen repeatedlycrossing all traffic lanes on southbound Interstate 35W. The driver then stopped in the middle of the freeway, started backing up at five mph, then stopped again in the middle of the highway.
"We've got a problem here," said Ray, referring to14 Fort Worth officers arrested for DWI in the past four years. "We need to resolve it. If we don't, we're going to have more and more cases they can't prosecute."
Chief Jeffrey Halstead recently vowed to fire any officer found to be driving drunk.He's already mandated alcohol awareness training for all officers and made support service available to any employee who asks.
Prosecutors say at least some of Nicolas Ramirez's cases can go forward, especially if there are other witnesses.