SARASOTA - Many seem to think that police officers, the people who are hired to enforce the law, receive preferential treatment when they break the law.
After the events over the past week involving two Manatee County Sheriff's officials, we wanted to find out if those who are paid to serve and protect do receive special treatment.
Derek Byrd, a criminal defense attorney in Sarasota has defended several police officers accused of being on the other side of the law.
"I have represented a lot of law enforcement over the years. I have to say that by and large, they do get a lot of preferential treatment, whether it be from the prosecutor's office, judges or their own agency," said Byrd.
We look at the two arrests that happened over the past week at the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.
Deputy Kevin White is still on the payroll as he awaits an internal affairs investigation into his alleged drunk driving incident.
It's not the first time he's been in trouble. At a Tampa Bay Rays game in 2010, the deputy was apparently intoxicated, disruptive and rude, and was banned from Tropicana Field for life. Interestingly enough, according to a report obtained by ABC 7, he was never charged or arrested, simply because he was employed with the Manatee Sheriff's Office.
That leads us to Lt. Dale Couch, the 20-year veteran with the office, charged with three counts of lewd and lascivious molestation on a child. Prosecutors asked a judge that he be held without bond. Instead, the judge set a bond at just over $200,000.
"I know that some people, including fellow colleagues of mine have questioned that bond and said they have clients charged with similar crimes that don't get a bond like that," said Byrd
Yet, even though Byrd claims officers do receive special treatment, he believes that didn't happen in Couch's case, citing no prior convictions, and the threat of him being a flight risk very unlikely.
"The guy's bond is set at over $200,000. He's a law enforcement officer. Not a multi-millionaire. That's a lot of money," said Byrd.
We reached out to Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube for comment, and so far, no response. That's likely because both of these cases are personnel related.
You may be wondering why we aren't showing the mugshots of these two individuals. According to a State Statute, law enforcement agencies are not required to release any personal information, including pictures, of officers accused of crimes.