A Fort Pierce man accused of driving drunk and causing a crash that killed a Fort Pierce woman is no longer facing criminal charges.
Waldron Brown will not go to trial and will never face the criminal charges for the deadly wreck again.
A judge decided to drop the case after ruling the State Attorney’s Office failed to meet deadlines required by law for a speedy trial.
When someone is arrested and accused of a felony, they have a right to a speedy trial, which requires the state to file charges and take the case to trial within 175 days of the arrest, according to state law.
The state and the accused drunk driver’s attorney had different ideas about when the arrest actually happened, leading to the missed deadline by the state.
On Sept. 1, 2017, 55-year-old Carla Smith and two other passengers were driving through Fort Pierce.
Police said Brown was driving drunk at a speed of more than 70 mph in 25 mph zone.
Police said Brown ran a stop sign and crashed into Smith’s car, killing her. He faced charges for vehicular homicide, DUI manslaughter, DUI damage to property, DUI serious bodily injury, DUI damage to persons.
Police body camera footage from the day of the crash shows police putting Brown in handcuffs.
Later in the hospital, police are heard on camera reading Brown Miranda rights, and saying, “You are under arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol or a chemical substance.”
Ashley Milton, the defense attorney for Brown, said Fort Pierce Police later reversed the arrest, but she maintained he was still arrested the day of the crash.
“They searched my client's pockets. They went into his pockets and took the contents out. You can’t do that if a person is not under arrest,” Milton said.
She expected the state also considered Sept. 1 the day of the arrest.
“I can’t explain why they didn’t file until April, other than the State Attorney who had the case dropped the ball,” Milton said.
Asst. State Attorney Sara Hedges told WPTV she considered the date of the arrest the day an arrest warrant was served.
In a statement she said:
The facts are undisputed that the defendant was never taken to the police department or booked into the county jail on the day of the fatal crash, September 1, 2017. The Judge made the determination that the 175 day speedy trial period had begun on that date and had expired by the time the State filed charges, barring the State from prosecuting the defendant for these crimes. It is the State’s position that the defendant was never arrested in this case until March 19, 2018, when the defendant was served with an arrest warrant on these charges. The State respectfully disagrees with the ruling and will be filing an appeal in this matter.
Milton said Brown did not have to be taken to jail to be considered under arrest. A judge agreed with Milton.
“He can never be charged criminally in the future for this case,” Milton said.
Additionally, Milton said police also claimed they did not put Brown under arrest on Sept. 1. As a result, she said she is grateful police were wearing body cameras, which she said, proved otherwise.
“Law enforcement is saying it didn’t happen that way, but in this case we had it on film.”
Overall, Milton said it’s a disappointing way to win a case.
“It’s kind of all around sad I think for the citizens for the victim’s family.”
Milton also argues Brown’s rights were violated by not being given a speedy trial. She is pursuing legal action for that concern.