By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
CHEHALIS – The Lewis County sheriff’s deputy arrested for drunk driving over the weekend had a blood alcohol reading of just over double the legal limit.
Deputy Christopher P. Fulton, 31, of Napavine, was off duty and in his own truck when he was pulled over for speeding early Saturday morning on Interstate 5 in Centralia, according to authorities.
The trooper who stopped him noticed the obvious odor of intoxicants on his breath, along with red watery eyes, according to the Washington State Patrol.
“She asked, and he admitted he had a few drinks that night,” Washington State Patrol Sgt. Doug Pardue said.
Fulton, a patrol deputy who has worked for the sheriff’s office since April 2008, has been placed on administrative leave from his job while the incident is being investigated.
It’s the second time in just four months a local sheriff’s deputy has been arrested for driving under the influence.
In early September, drug detective Jeffrey S. Humphrey was arrested by a trooper in Chehalis after he drove through an area closed for a serious collision investigation.
Like Humphrey, Fulton’s vehicle was impounded and after he was processed for DUI, he was taken home instead of spending the night in jail.
Pardue said on a first time DUI, it’s an officer’s discretion as to whether the individual gets booked or not, considering factors such as if they think the person is likely to show up for court.
Most are arrested and then released, he said, referring to cases involving the state patrol in Lewis County.
“Probably less than half get booked,” Pardue said,
Sheriff Steve Mansfield issued a statement yesterday morning, saying he was extremely embarrassed and disappointed, vowing to provide a full accounting to the public once his internal investigation is completed.
“This community depends on our deputies to protect them, keep them from harm, and uphold the law,” Mansfield stated. “Impaired drivers are one of the biggest threats to people in our community.”
Fulton appeared before a judge yesterday in Lewis County District Court in Chehalis, where a plea of not guilty was entered for him.
He was accompanied by Centralia defense attorney Don Blair.
Judge Michael Roewe agreed with the deputy prosecutor’s recommendation he be released on his personal recognizance, without bond or bail payment.
The judge also ordered Fulton not to possess or consume any alcohol or non-prescribed controlled substances, or go into any taverns or bars.
Few details of what occurred just before 1 a.m. Saturday near Centralia’s Mellen Street interchange are available, as no probable cause statement from the trooper was filed yesterday.
Blair told the judge he would agree with whatever it contained, and Deputy Prosecutor Luke Stanton said after the court hearing he hadn’t received the report.
Pardue, the supervising sergeant that night who came to the scene, said the incident was not out of the ordinary.
According to Pardue and the citation, Fulton was southbound on Interstate 5 when the trooper contacted him for speeding near milepost 81.
He was traveling alone in his 2012 Toyota Tacoma and Trooper Melody Krenelka became aware of the possibility he was impaired.
Fulton agreed to the field sobriety tests and portable breath test, Pardue said, and based on those he was taken to the Lewis County Jail where one of two BAC machines are available in the west end of the county.
His blood alcohol content result is listed as .172. The legal limit of an alcohol concentration is .08.
And then he was transported to his residence, Pardue said.
Deputy Prosecutor Stanton indicated a special deputy prosecutor from Thurston County would be handling the case. Next, a date for a pre-trial hearing will be scheduled, according to Stanton.
Driving under the influence is gross misdemeanor punishable by up to 364 days in jail and or a $5,000 fine in the criminal justice system.
Any sanctions or restrictions which could arise with the state Department of Licensing are separate. And for law enforcement officers, any disciplinary actions related to their job are the domain of their superiors and sometimes labor contracts.
In Humphrey’s case, Sheriff Mansfield within two months of the arrest announced he had imposed a two-week unpaid suspension and removed Humphrey from his position as a detective.
Humphrey was also subject to a last chance agreement that tied his continued employment directly to the conditions imposed by the court.
For background, read “News brief: Lewis County deputy arrested for DUI” from Monday January 6, 2014, here