Former CHP captain's lawyer wants drunken-driving case dismissed

The attorney for the former CHP captain accused of misdemeanor drunken driving is seeking to have the case dismissed, saying the District Attorney’s Office should not have disclosed confidential information.

Martin Joel “Marty” Whited’s lawyer, Ilan Funke-Bilu, said his client’s right to privacy was violated because a CHP incident report from an internal investigation was used in the case and publicly released without a required court hearing.

Whited, 50, who since has retired from the CHP after being demoted to lieutenant, has pleaded not guilty to driving under the influence in connection with a March 2009 incident on a roadside east of Templeton.

Judge Jacquelyn Duffy is expected to decide at a Dec. 17 hearing whether to dismiss the case against Whited based on Funke-Bilu’s request.

Because the CHP incident report was generated from an internal investigation, Funke-Bilu said, it is confidential barring a court order.

Incident reports from law enforcement agencies can be requested under public records law, though certain privacy exemptions — such as files relating to personnel — may prevent disclosure.

Funke-Bilu said no hearing was conducted before the report’s release, resulting in a violation of his client’s privacy. Duffy ruled Monday to seal the report from public availability barring a court order.

Officials from the District Attorney’s Office said that they’re withholding comment until the court hearing scheduled for December.

The CHP recommended criminal charges against Whited after sheriff’s deputies discovered him March 12, 2009, inside a state car stopped near El Pomar and Neal Springs roads.

Because of his high rank in the CHP, the county Sheriff’s Department called supervisors from the state police agency to the scene and turned Whited over to a local CHP captain.

Sheriff’s deputies and a CHP official who were at the scene said Whited appeared drunk, according to the CHP report. He smelled of alcohol, had slurred speech and was confused about his whereabouts, the CHP said.

Whited was not administered a blood or breath test for intoxication at the scene, nor was he arrested then.

CHP Capt. Jeff Sgobba, who is based in the agency’s Goleta office, wrote in his investigative report that although no blood alcohol 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.”

Whited is charged with driving under the influence, which differs from a similar charge of driving with a blood alcohol content above 0.08 percent.