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No free DUI pass in Levy County
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Jan. 23, 2015 @ 11:17 p.m.
Updated Jan. 24, 2015 @ 8:37 a.m.

LEVY COUNTY -- In what appears to be a promotion by people who want to protect all Americans from self-incrimination and from unwarranted searches, which are rights protected by the United States Constitution, some people in a car on New Year's Eve went through a DUI checkpoint in Levy County without even having to roll down the window.
     This is not going to be the case if a car is pulled over by a law enforcement officer, though, or if a driver had shown an officer reason to suspect the driver was intoxicated. In that instance, they would not pass so easily through a checkpoint.

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     There is more than one video recording of this exercise where the participating driver has a Ziploc bag (or some other brand of plastic bag) on a string hanging from the window. The bag protects the paper from rain. The paper shows a valid registration for the car as well as proof of insurance. Also hanging out the window and attached to this "kit" is the driver's license.

Levy County Prevention Coalition Chairman Crystal Seley and LCPC Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Lewis are seen at the start of the meeting. Other coalition directors present were Co-Chairman Annie Battles, Coordinator of Community Based Projects Rhesa L. Collop, Treasurer (and founder) Robert Wells and Board Member Edith Brown.

     As part of this "kit," there is also a statement for the officers noting that the driver is invoking his or her right to not speak. The driver leaves the window rolled up to avoid self-incrimination by the potential of the officer smelling alcohol, and the driver does not speak to the officer so that there is no debate about whether a statement was made by a person with slurred speech.
 Prevent012215B    Deputies look at the bag then waive the driver through the checkpoint in Levy County, which was conducted on the night of New Year's Eve and into the first hours of New Year's Day 2015. It's an experiment claimed has worked seven times in the state of Florida.

Levy County Deputy and DRE Brandin Sullivan speaks about the program where he can serve as a witness to help prosecutors in cases against people who are intoxicated on drugs other than alcohol.

     At the end of the Thursday afternoon (Jan. 22) meeting of the Levy County Prevention Coalition, Levy County Sheriff Robert "Bobby" McCallum Jr. spoke about the night and how his deputies handled it.
     Sheriff McCallum said they were prepared for this group of people. There was no reason to suspect that they were intoxicated, he said. A walk around the vehicle showed the officers that the lights were all working, he added. Hence, they were waived through.
     McCallum wants the residents and visitors of Levy County to know the LCSO is keeping streets safe. This stunt to help test the exercise of rights protected for all Americans
     Drunk drivers might create this DUI Checkpoint Kit, he said. However if a deputy with the LCSO pulls a person over, it will be from probable cause that allows that action, McCallum said.
     While this stunt worked at the DUI checkpoint in Levy County on U.S. Highway 19 just north of Chiefland on New Year’s Eve, hanging this bag out the window is not the end of action required by a driver who is pulled over.
     If a law enforcement officer observes something such as erratic driving, speeding, careless driving, willful and wanton reckless driving, an open container in a vehicle, drugs in plain view in a vehicle, etc., then that circumvents any such "DUI Checkpoint Kit" and the deputy, policeman, trooper or other duly sworn officer could lawfully and reasonably request the individual to open the window, step out of the vehicle, etc., to conduct an investigation.
     “We balance between protecting everyone’s Constitutional rights and safety,” McCallum said. “We do not want to violate anyone’s rights. We want to remove impaired drivers from the roadways, where they endanger the lives and property of other people.”
     The sheriff said the officers in the LCSO do not harass people. They just want to keep everyone safe. He said there have been enough needless deaths from drivers operating vehicles while they were under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
     One of the key officers participating in the DUI Checkpoint on New Year’s Eve in Levy County was LCSO Deputy Sheriff Brandin Sullivan.
     Sullivan was the guest speaker on Thursday at the Levy County Prevention Coalition meeting. He recently completed training in the Drug Evaluation and Classification (DEC) Program, also known as the Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) Program.
     Deputy Sullivan became one of approximately 240 DREs in Florida and is the first with the LCSO. That means there is about 1 percent of the law enforcement officers in Florida who have this certification.
     Sullivan has been an LCSO deputy since 2013. He continues performing all of his normal duties as a deputy, but his specialization is called upon and used now too. He received no extra pay after the certification, and there is no insignia added to his uniform from this specialization.
     He started his career in law enforcement in Marion County in 2007 after serving in the United States Army.
     Sullivan said he believes that as marijuana is decriminalized across the United States, there will be more car accidents and deaths as a result. There are already 8 percent of Americans who are regular marijuana smokers, he said statistics show.
     Rounding Levy County’s population to be 40,000 people, Sullivan said, means there could be as many as 3,200 people in this county who use marijuana on a regular basis. “How many of those people do you think drive?” he asked.
     Since October, Sullivan has made seven DUI arrests based on the persons being intoxicated on marijuana too much to drive.

(from left) LCSO Lt. Sean Mullins, who is retiring in the near future, Levy County Deputy and DRE Brandin Sullivan and LCSO Maj. Mike Sheffield. Also present were Levy County Sheriff Robert ‘Bobby’ McCallum Jr. and Undersheriff W.I. Brett Beauchamp III.

     With alcohol, there is an understanding that a person with a blood-alcohol content of .08 percent is too intoxicated to legally operate a vehicle. They are ‘intoxicated per se on alcohol.” There is no “per se” limit for marijuana, Sullivan said.
     “Every single person (of the seven DUI-marijuana arrestees) say ‘What’s the problem? I’m just high’,” Sullivan said, “because there is no education there. People think they can smoke marijuana and then drive a vehicle. And it is the exact opposite of that.”
     A spike in accidents including those with fatalities, are happening in Colorado, Sullivan said, because of the legalized use of marijuana in that state. He foresees Florida following Colorado in regard to legalized use of marijuana.
     Proving a person is impaired by their level of intoxication from marijuana, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, barbiturates, LSD and other forms of drugs is the duty of the Drug Recognition Expert, he said.
    The determination of intoxication begins with testing for alcoholic impairment, he said. If the driver is drunk on alcohol, then there is no need to go further, because there is no added penalty for poly-drug use. If the person is having a medical issue, such as from diabetes or a heart problem like stroke, then that driver is sent to the hospital for help.
     If the drive is not drunk on alcohol, does not have a medical issue and still shows symptoms of intoxication, then the DRE goes through a series of many examinations to determine which type of drug the person is abusing.
     Sheriff McCallum said he is glad that Deputy Sullivan was able to complete the rigorous education and training to complete the courses and pass the tests. Gilchrist, Dixie and Citrus counties do not have any DRE deputies, the sheriff said. Alachua County has four DRE deputies.
     McCallum said he wants to keep the number of fatal accidents on the highways of Levy County to be as few as possible. Not only is there now a DRE deputy, but other deputies are participating in traffic law enforcement.

10th Annual MLK celebration
attracts people to Cross City

A rider makes his horse rear up. This is a move for a very experienced rider.

Story, Photos and Videos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Jan. 19, 2015

     CROSS CITY -- Tradition held strong Monday afternoon (Jan. 19) in Dixie County as the 10th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day was celebrated by people who came from near and far.

     The big parade seemed even bigger this year than last year, and Johnnie Grimes, one of the event organizers this year, said she anticipates next year being even better.

In this video, the STEP Dancers from Columbia High School of Lake City perform for a short period during the last part of the long parade.

     Grimes has started Character Private School and her school was selling funnel cakes during the program after the parade.

     Once again, there were many singers and dancers performing in the program after the parade, and there were some musicians in the parade – including the Dixie County High School Redcoat Regiment Marching Band.

Bob Leichner of the Dixie Music Center plugs in some of the machinery used for the performances.

     Angela Carter said people from Columbia High School of Lake City and New Brooklyn Baptist Church of Perry were welcome neighboring participants. Coming from Chiefland, were Mayor Teal Pomeroy, Vice Mayor Betty Walker and Chiefland City Commissioner Chris Jones. Also from Chiefland were members of the St. Phillips Lodge 897 Free and Accepted Masons.

(above) Deacon Buddy Walker of the Royal Temple takes a slab of ribs from the cooker to be moved to the storage cooler. (below) His prosthetic foot and ankle help him stand as he cooks the ribs to help the church, and to give diners some delicious barbecue.

MLK011915C     Angela Carter’s late sister Felita Carter and Teva Teague started this annual celebration in Dixie County more than 30 years ago, but this was just the 10th Annual Martin Luther King Parade. Angela Carter, Willmonteen “Wilma” Smith and Grimes were among the organizers this year.
     Cross City Mayor Heddie Bell Johnson served as the emcee for the event again this year as she spoke from atop the Dixie County Courthouse steps. And once again Bob Leichner of Dixie Music provided the sound system, as he has for all but the first year of this annual event.
     Pastor P.J. Hope of Royal Temple Pentecostal Church was joined by Assistant Pastor Michael Latson, Deacon Buddy Walker, Deacon Ricky McDowell, Deacon Samuel Thomas and Brother Benjamin Robinson in praising God through Jesus.
     Assistant Pastor Latson gave a moving prayer that opened the event after the parade.
Chiefland Mayor Teal Pomeroy, Vice Mayor Betty Walker and City Commissioner Chris Jones ride in the Chiefland FIre Rescue engine as they represent the city in the neighboring city's parade.

    The Men of Change, which is the men’s group of Royal Temple, cooked chicken and ribs as a fundraiser for the church. The Women of Royal Temple Helping In This Town (WORTHITT) baked cupcakes and other baked goods to raise funds.

In this video, the Dixie County High School Redcoat Regiment Marching Band performs during the parade.

     Shauna Clark sang the Star-Spangled Banner as well as other songs later. She was joined by Caleb Hage on guitar as she sang “I’ll Fly Away” and he sang backup.
       There were many other performers including Dale Bond. The Columbia High School’s STEP dancers, under the guidance of Shakira Merrick, performed. As did the Sunny Lil’ Dancers, and others.


     Cross City Patrolman Stant Brantley led the parade from Dixie County High School down U.S. Highway 19 to Martin Luther King Jr. Street and then toward the Dixie County Courthouse.

    Seven volunteers with the Dixie County Sheriff’s Office Citizens On Patrol assisted with traffic control.

In this video, Shauna Clark performs ‘I’ll Fly Away’ with Caleb Hage on guitar.

     In addition to Cross City Police Department, and as noted earlier a Chiefland Fire Rescue engine with the mayor and some City Commission members, there were several other first responders.

Members of the Dixie County Board of County Commissioners throw candy to children who are watching the parade.

     Cross City Fire Department; Dixie County EMS; Florida Forestry Service with Smokey Bear and Radio the Forestry Service Clown were in the line-up.
      Columbia High School’s STEP dancers under the guidance of Shakira Merrick; Triumph Church Praise Dancers; Saint Phillips Lodge 897 Free & Accepted Masons of Chiefland; Carnegie Funeral Service of Levy County; Sons of Confederate Veterans and Daughters of the Confederacy; Dixie County Retired Educators; and Character Private School were in the parade too.


       The Royal Temple Pentacostal Church had a good showing in the parade. There were also children on ATVs, children on floats, adults on floats, Kiki Jackson of Cross City riding on a car with “Dreaming of a Cure” on it, and the New Brooklyn Baptist Church of Perry.
     There were horsemen in the parade, including one man who was able to make his horse stand on its hind legs and rare up.


     Several parade units threw candy to children – including the Dixie County Board of County Commissioners. There were also flying disks flown to spectators.
     Sirens could be heard all the way to the Dixie County Courthouse as the parade promptly began at noon on Monday - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day -- at Dixie County High School.

Cross City Mayor Heddie Bell Johnson reminds the people that they will get out of something what they put into it as she encourages everyone to participate in the celebration on Monday.

     There was not a cloud in the sky as a cool gentle breeze kept everyone comfortable.
     There were many other great speakers and musical performers at the event, which showed Cross City as one of the top places in North Florida to enjoy an event specifically related to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. And the celebration went well into the afternoon on Monday.


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Fifty-Second Jingle Singer

The newest performer of the jingle is Mark Johnson, Award-Winning Clawgrass Banjo Player. In 2012, he received the Third Annual Steve Martin Award for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass Music. He was also the 19th Jingle performer. Everyone is invited to sing the Jingle. If you see Jeff Hardison and you want to sing the jingle, just let him know or send an email to He asks people to sing it, too, and some of them agree. (Thanks people!) This video was posted Jan. 17, 2015 at 8:47 a.m. The next jingle performer will be Sthefany Albert. -- Video by Jeff M. Hardison

Another email to use to contact Jeff M. Hardison


Your weather just got better.


SUN.  JAN. 25    10:17 p.m.
Levy, Dixie, Gilchrist counties


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