Former CHP captain charged with driving under the influence

The District Attorney’s Office has filed a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence against a former CHP captain seven months after he was found stopped in his car late at night near Templeton.

Martin Joel “Marty” Whited, 49, was charged with violating state vehicle code section 23152(a), or driving under the influence, in court papers filed Thursday afternoon in connection with the March 12 incident.

His arraignment is set for Dec. 2 in San Luis Obispo Superior Court.

This charge differs from state vehicle code section 23152(b) — driving with a blood alcohol content above 0.08 percent. That section requires blood evidence be taken from a suspect.

None was taken from Whited in the episode, which triggered allegations that law enforcement treats its own differently than the public at large.

On that night, Whited was not arrested, though the CHP investigative report that recommends criminal charges states that deputies and top CHP officials who saw Whited that night all believed him to be slurring his words, smelling of alcohol and intoxicated.

If Whited is convicted, he could be fined $1,875, have his license restricted for 90 days after whatever suspension he receives from the Department of Motor Vehicles, receive three years probation and be expected to attend DUI classes.

Whited was an administrative captain in the Coastal Division headquarters of the CHP on South Broad Street in San Luis Obispo.

He has since been demoted to lieutenant and is working in Modesto for the CHP.

Coastal Division Assistant Chief Scott Howland said the CHP investigated the incident and recommended the criminal charge to the District Attorney’s Office.

He said there is no truth to the claim made by some current and retired CHP officers that Whited received special treatment.

The investigative report was written by CHP Capt. Jeff Sgobba, who is based in the agency’s Goleta office.

It states that, while on patrol, deputies Matt Terrell and Mike Norris saw Whited’s state-issued black Ford Crown Victoria on the roadside near El Pomar and Neal Springs roads.

The deputies reported that Whited responded, “I’m fine,” when asked his condition.

But they also told Sgobba that he was unsteady, had to lean on his car and smelled of alcohol.

The deputies reported who he was and his condition to their watch commander, Sgt. Dale Strobridge, according to the report. Capt. Bill Vail of the CHP’s San Luis Obispo field office then went to the scene.

The CHP incident report states that Vail advised deputies Terrell and Norris “to take the appropriate enforcement action and not give Captain Whited any preferential treatment.”

The report states Norris said they were not going to arrest Whited for DUI, because they had not observed him driving.

Norris also reportedly stated that because of low staffing levels, the Sheriff’s Department “routine procedure” was to release cooperative, intoxicated individuals to somebody who could guarantee their safety, according to the CHP report.

Terrell also told Vail they had no intention of arresting Whited, the report states.

Vail drove Whited from the scene, and Whited’s car was “driven from the scene and secured by Deputy Terrell,” the report adds.

Terrell and Vail both told Sgobba there were no containers of alcohol in the car.

Evidence of intoxication listed on the report by Sgobba included the Sheriff’s Department video showing Whited acting like someone “obviously under the influence of alcohol”; Norris describing Whited as “blottoed,” unaware of where he was, and smelling of alcohol; and Terrell referring to his slurred speech and odor of alcohol on his breath.

Coastal Division Chief Adam Cuevas responded to the area, but not the scene, that night and also saw Whited. He also described an odor of alcohol, and based upon his experience said that Whited “was intoxicated,” the report stated, and Vail also noticed “signs that he had been drinking” and that Whited “did not know where he was.”

Sgobba found that while no testing was done and nobody saw Whited driving, “it is my opinion there is sufficient evidence that Whited was driving a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.” Sheriff’s Department spokesman Rob Bryn said the deputies accurately described the department practices in the report.

He said deputies in the North County often have to patrol large areas and there are staffing issues that result in turning drunken drivers over to the CHP or family.

He noted there is a memorandum of understanding that states deputies turn over such intoxicated drivers to the CHP.

“He didn’t get any preferential treatment,” Bryn said. “Deputies in remote areas, when we only have so many people available, will utilize what help they have. They turned this person over to somebody who could follow up with it. And it’s certainly clear they did.”

District Attorney’s Office spokesman Jerret Gran would not comment on how tough the case might be to prove without blood evidence and no arrest made at the time.

Whited is on court probation in connection with a misdemeanor child endangerment charge he was convicted of in San Mateo County in January 2008.

In that instance, he reportedly argued with his wife and pushed her, then she fell in front of their children and received a gash on the head, according to a court report from that county.