Body-camera footage sheds light on Baltimore officer's drunken driving acquittal

An off-duty Baltimore Police officer charged and cleared of a drunken-driving crash involving a departmental vehicle nearly evaded legal trouble — until patrol officers realized he was a fellow cop, newly released body-camera footage shows.

By the time they made the connection, Sgt. Larry Worsley was being driven home by his wife and had to be stopped again. Ultimately, officers waited more than three hours to administer a breath alcohol test. Prosecutors say that is beyond the legal window to test someone for drunken driving, prosecutors say — and that delay forced them to discard the test and proceed on lesser charges.

Baltimore District Court Judge David Aldouby acquitted Worsley last week of the single charge of driving under the influence of alcohol that prosecutors went forward with, determining that police didn’t have probable cause to stop Worsley the second time after letting him go. That’s according to defense attorney Scott Richman, who criticized prosecutors for trying the case despite its problems.

Until the realization that Worsley was an officer, “it was like any other accident where a tow truck was called,” Richman said. “The judge’s point was: You can’t conduct another traffic stop on someone simply because they’re a police officer. It’s not a crime to get into an accident.”

The State’s Attorney’s Office maintained it had “substantial” evidence that Worsley was driving intoxicated, even without the breath test being introduced. And prosecutors pressed forward with an argument that Worsley had hit multiple parked cars, despite police not finding evidence of other damaged vehicles.

“In the interest of public safety our office takes driving while intoxicated cases seriously and will always pursue justice equally and fairly no matter the occupation of the defendant,” they said in a statement.

Richman said, to the contrary, his client was treated differently because he was an officer.

The Police Department did not respond to questions about Worsley’s status in the department.

Body camera footage from the July 14 stop in the 1100 block of Argonne Drive shows Worsley appearing disoriented as a patrol officer, Jarred Carlos, tries to ascertain what happened to his damaged rental vehicle, which is later determined to be a city police car. The right front tire is broken off, with scratches and other damage on the side.

It’s just after 4 a.m., and Worsley says little about the circumstances of the crash. He identifies himself only as a “city employee,” and repeatedly says, “Just give me one second.”

“I wasn’t in an accident,” Worsley says.

“Your car is heavily damaged from hitting something. That didn’t just happen,” Carlos says.

Worsley says he is calling a “supervisor,” who was later revealed to be Col. Byron Conaway, the head of the criminal investigations division.

“Obviously something is wrong with you. I don’t know what it is. Did you take something? … Your pupils are dilated,” Carlos says.

Later, Worsley says he’s going to move the car out of the road. “What’re you talking about? … Your entire tire is broken on the side. It can’t move,” Carlos says.

But Carlos doesn’t administer a field sobriety test, later explaining he didn’t smell alcohol and thought Worsley could have been woozy from the accident.

Carlos decides to have the vehicle towed and let Worsley be taken home.

Forty minutes into the encounter, Worsley is leaving when Carlos realizes Worsley is an officer. He waves the car to the side of the road.

“You said you worked for the city — you didn’t tell me you work for the police department,” Carlos says. He later tells another officer that he’s never heard of Worsley or seen him before.

He detains Worsley again, sparking new scrutiny and additional officers arriving on scene.

Prosecutors said that under Maryland law, law enforcement must conduct a blood alcohol content test within two hours following apprehension of a suspected drunken driver.

“Unfortunately, the Baltimore Police Department conducted Sgt. Worsley’s test approximately 3 hours after his apprehension,” prosecutors said in a statement.

The body camera footage shows that officers discussing what to do with Worsley are aware that the two-hour time frame is closing quickly. “The problem we’re going to run into is the two-hour time limit,” a female officer says after voicing support for having Worsley take a breath test.

“We can still do it, and he can still refuse, and then we just go from there,” a male officer says. “Let’s just do that.”

Richman disputed the prosecutors’ assertion that they were legally unable to introduce the breath test.

“The prosecution's statement regarding the time of apprehension and the automatic exclusion of a breath test result after two hours is about as legally correct as their previous statement that there is a legal limit in Maryland,” Richman said in a followup email.

jfenton@baltsun.com

twitter.com/justin_fenton

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