Questions swirl around cop's DWI arrest

Photo courtesy Durham Police Department

November 30, 2009 8:41:34 PM PST
The arrest of a Durham police officer accused of drinking and driving is raising questions about what happened when he was taken into custody.A DWI bust usually involves jail time and a mug shot, but that's not what happened when Durham Police Officer Nathan Keith was arrested last week.

ABC11 Eyewitness News has learned Officer Keith served no jail time and had no mug shot on file after he was arrested on I-85 for a blood alcohol level twice the legal limit.

In fact, the police had to provide ABC11 with a department photo.

Officials at the Durham County jail say they followed procedure when Officer Keith was brought in.

A fellow Durham officer made the arrest. Instead of jail, Keith was taken to the magistrate's office.

According to court documents, he was later released into the custody of another person.

"You don't want to let somebody sign themselves out and get back into the vehicle and begin to drive again," Durham County Major Julian Couch said. "So the condition was he be released to a sober responsible person."

Couch says what happened with Officer Keith isn't uncommon in DWI cases.

"This could happen with anyone it could happen with you," Couch said.

ABC11 was also told he was fingerprinted.

Jail officials say there was no mug shot taken since Officer Keith was technically never in their custody. They denied it was a case of special treatment.

"If you don't have an arrest record and you're charged with a misdemeanor the magistrate at his or her discretion can let you sign yourself out on your own word that you would show up in court on the date and time specified," Couch said.

Officer Keith will have to appear in court in January.

In the meantime, he is on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of an internal investigation.

Keith has been with the department since 1997 and is assigned to the Uniform Patrol Bureau.

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