Court: Dying cat no excuse for DUI
After a Hillsborough County sheriff's deputy clocked him going 84 mph and veering across three lanes of traffic toward a highway exit ramp, Christopher Brooks was arrested for drunken driving.
But Brooks argued he had a legitimate reason: His friend's cat was sick, and he was the only person available to take the pet to an all-night veterinary clinic.
A state appeals court Wednesday, however, swatted down Brooks' attempt to use what is called a "defense of necessity."
The three-judge panel said such a defense could be used, in certain circumstances, for people charged with driving under the influence - though those circumstances would involve people, not cats, being in danger of serious injuries."
The ruling stemmed from the early morning arrest Oct. 30, 2010, of Brooks, who was charged with his third DUI within a 10-year period, according to the ruling. At trial, Brooks did not deny that he was driving under the influence, but offered the sick-cat defense.
"Although Mr. Brooks' defense is unusual, he presented some evidence to support it," said the appeals court opinion.
"He was transporting a cat, and the cat was very ill. There is a veterinary clinic near the highway exit where the deputy stopped Mr. Brooks. The cat's owner and two of his acquaintances were passengers in Mr. Brooks' car.
"One of these persons was apparently giving Mr. Brooks directions to the clinic when the deputy stopped Mr. Brooks' vehicle."
Also, the ruling said: "While Mr. Brooks explained the unusual circumstances of his errand to the deputy, the cat's owner pleaded, 'My cat is fixing to die!' In fact, the cat did die, during or shortly after the vehicle stop that resulted in Mr. Brooks' arrest."
A jury found Brooks guilty of felony DUI, which led to the appeal. Among the issues raised by Brooks was that Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Daniel H. Sleet denied his request for a jury instruction on the "defense of necessity."