WILMINGTON — The Wilmington Police Department has dropped the charges against a state trooper after arresting North Carolina State Trooper Dennis Tafoya for DWI — but it now appears Tafoya had not been driving.
According to a release from the WPD, “53-year-old Dennis Tafoya was arrested on Saturday, July 21 around 3:30 am. A Wilmington Police Officer and Sheriff Deputy from the Downtown Task Force came upon Tafoya’s vehicle on Princess Street near the Federal Courthouse. When officers approached the car they found dash-board lights on and Tafoya in the driver’s seat.”
After what WPD described as an “in-depth investigation,” it was determined that the engine of Tafoya’s personal vehicle was not running. Apparently, Tafoya was sitting in his vehicle with the engine off.
Spokesperson Linda Rawley said the Wilmington Police Department officer and New Hanover County Sheriff’s deputy who came across the car saw the dash lights and incorrectly surmised the car was running. Rawley said she could not say if the keys were in the ignition at the time of Tafoya’s arrest, or if Tafoya had the keys on his person.
WPD cited North Carolina General Statute § 20-138.1., which states:
(a) Offense. – A person commits the offense of impaired driving if he drives any vehicle upon any highway, any street, or any public vehicular area within this State:
(1) While under the influence of an impairing substance; or
(2) After having consumed sufficient alcohol that he has, at any relevant time after the driving, an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more. The results of a chemical analysis shall be deemed sufficient evidence to prove a person’s alcohol concentration;
The WPD is not calling this a wrongful arrest. According to Spokesperson Linda Rawley, both the WPD and the office of District Attorney Ben David felt this was a “good arrest,” despite the mistake, because “at the time officers did think the engine was running,” which would have provided probable cause for Tafoya’s arrest.
According to Rawley, Tafoya will not face any other charges.