Programming Note: This shall be the inaugural edition of Panning for Gold: a Juice special report on the culture of the Florida Panhandle, where all the laws of this great state are made.
In the Panhandle, folks learn by doing, which is why R. Scott Whitehead may be the state's most accomplished DUI attorney. No matter how humiliated you are by your own flunking of a field sobriety test, Whitehead's been there. Hell, in one billable hour he can tell you stories to make you feel like a teetotaler by comparison.
The Destin barrister racked up a pair of DUIs in consecutive weekends over May and June -- and this past week he was named the primary suspect in the drunken driving of a golf cart that led to the damaging of a stop sign and "decorative landscape timber" near a golf course.
The attorney who defends DUI cases, among other kinds, began his tutelage as a DUI defendant on the night of May 25, when he slammed into a car at an intersection, then drove away -- only to get in yet another accident, backing up traffic for miles around.
According to the Northwest Florida Daily News, Whitehead then tried to flee that second accident, and might have done so had the firefighters not pulled him from his car. Quoting a police report, the article gives this account of Whitehead's behavior after police arrived:
He refused to submit to field sobriety tests and had trouble finding his shoes and putting them on, according to the report. The deputy finally put one of his sandals on for him, but they were unable to locate the other one, it states.
He said he could walk on his own but had trouble getting to the patrol car, according to the report. Once there, he struggled to get into the vehicle, lying down on his left side and kicking his feet "as if to push off an object that was not there," the report noted.
But Whitehead was just getting warmed up. One week later he was back in handcuffs. Again, from the Northwest Florida Daily News:
Robert Scott Whitehead, 38, was stopped by a Fort Walton Beach police officer just after midnight near Paradise Point shopping center downtown after he sped past a patrol vehicle, crossed the yellow line and almost struck a concrete median, according to his DUI probable cause documentation packet.
He then swerved and narrowly missed two cars, the packet said. He received four tickets and was taken to the Okaloosa County Jail about 5 a.m., according to jail officials.
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Which leads us to the golf cart incident, this past weekend. On this occasion, Whitehead was alleged to be boozing it up with a client. The client told police he was getting uncomfortable with Whitehead but that the attorney would not let him walk home. Rather, Whitehead insisted on giving his client a ride home in the golf cart:
As the two approached the intersection of Tranquility Lane and Seastar Vista, Whitehead said, "Watch this," according to the report. That's when Whitehead intentionally drove directly toward the stop sign, damaging it.
The man said both he and Whitehead were "heavily intoxicated" at the time the sign was damaged, according to the report.
A witness told the deputy he had seen the golf cart driven by Whitehead dragging the stop sign. The witness identified Whitehead in a photo lineup, the report said.
Now we South Floridians may be asking, "Why on earth would anyone hire this lawyer?" But the client involved in the above incident told police that Whitehead did not take rejection well.
According to the report, the man who was with Whitehead told the deputy he'd attempted to fire Whitehead before, but Whitehead come to his house "intoxicated" and "uninvited" and once even barged in.