In the eyes of society, incidences of drunk driving are almost universally seen as an ethical and moral failing. For that reason, DWI cases are rarely questioned for their validity and accuracy. However, that may change in Dallas, TX, where a police sergeant with a history of disciplinary problems is now facing serious allegations that he lied in a drunk driving case in spite of clear video evidence.
In the early hours of July 6, 2012, Sgt. Stephen “Tiny” Baker pulled over a Ford Mustang belonging to Marcial Salazar after he made a right turn. Baker’s dashcam shows that the officer ran a red light to stop the driver, indicating that Salazar had a green light when he made the turn. However, Baker told Salazar that he had stopped him after he ran a red light and Salazar eventually admitted to driving while intoxicated. He later failed a series of field sobriety tests and was arrested.
That DWI arrest was brought up again in February 2015 in court, where the dashcam video was repeatedly replayed for Baker. While the tape clearly shows that the light was red the entire time he pursued Salazar, Baker refused to admit his error. At one point, Salazar’s DWI attorney politely asked Baker if he was colorblind. The office said no. Baker also claimed he was in a parking lot when he saw Salazar, a fact that was also clearly disproved by the video. In light of these events, the judge suppressed Baker’s testimony and instructed the jury enter a verdict of not guilty.
In the wake of the case, Baker, a 21-year veteran of the department, was stripped of his badge and gun. He is currently on administrative leave while he awaits an internal investigation. However, many in the Dallas legal community have commented that Baker’s lack of credibility is seen as concerning, especially because Baker has trained and supervised a number of officers. Even more worrying to these professionals, however, is Baker’s current role coordinating the departments intoxilyzer program at the jail, performing breathalyzer tests, and delivering blood samples collected in DWI cases to the lab; due to recent questions about his character, the validity of these DWI cases could be jeopardized.
So far, the DA’s office and Dallas police officials have remained tight-lipped about the impact Baker could have on other criminal cases, stating only that their investigation is ongoing. However, sources have informed local news sources that a number of incidents involving Baker are being collected and reviewed.
Baker’s suspension comes at the end of a long, troubled career filled with disciplinary action. In 2000, for example, he was suspended for harassment and conducting personal business on duty after he ran driver’s license checks for personal reasons and spied on an ex-girlfriend to see if she was romantically involved with her boss, among other things. Then, in 2003, he was suspended after he failed to report a traffic accident. Finally, in 2012, Baker’s supervisors recommend that he be put in a personnel development program for troubled officers after he incurred four “inappropriate use of force” complaints in two years. However, in spite of this checkered past and the clear disapproval of an interview board, Baker was promoted to sergeant and given his role with DWI cases at the jail. Due to these cases and others, if you have been accused of a DWI, it is important to contact an attorney to discuss how you can best navigate this convoluted system.