A judge dismissed the public intoxication case against a Mission police corporal last week — nearly five months after fellow officers found him asleep behind the wheel, blocking the drive-thru lane at Jack in the Box.
Cpl. Adan Beltran, 40, of Pharr pleaded no contest to public intoxication, according to court records. After he completed a deferred adjudication program, Mission Municipal Judge Jonathan Wehrmeister dismissed the case on March 5.
“It’s called ‘home cooking,’” said former Hidalgo County District Attorney Rene Guerra. “Give him a break, pobrecito.”
Reached through an attorney, Beltran declined to comment.
Officers arrested Beltran at 1:46 a.m. on Oct. 16, when they responded to a call about a black Toyota Tundra blocking the drive-thru lane at Jack in the Box, 1401 E. Expressway 83.
“When I approached the vehicle, I observed the vehicle to be in park with the driver completely asleep at the wheel,” according to the police report. “I detected a strong odor of alcohol emitting from the vehicle.”
Officers woke Beltran, who appeared confused and asked them what happened.
“I advised Beltran that he fell asleep in the drive-thru of the Jack in the Box,” according to the police report. “Beltran replied ‘No, I’m at Whataburger.’”
Beltran exited the truck, but couldn’t keep his balance, according to the police report. He failed the standard field sobriety test.
Officers arrested Beltran and charged him with public intoxication.
“If he was driving, it shouldn’t have been a PI,” Guerra said, adding that the facts supported a driving while intoxicated charge. “There’s no doubt he got special treatment because he was an officer.”
Driving while intoxicated is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of six months in jail. Public intoxication, though, is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a maximum fine of $500.
“The charge they get is at the discretion of the police officer,” said Al Alvarez, a prominent criminal defense attorney.
Officers weigh the facts when they find an intoxicated person in a vehicle, but the vehicle isn’t on a public street, Alvarez said. Important factors include who owns the car, whether or not the keys were in the ignition and where the person is sitting.
In his experience, the time of day matters too, Alvarez said. Officers seem more likely to charge someone with public intoxication during the day.
“If it’s after midnight, the witching hour, it’s a DWI,” Alvarez said.
Drunken driving arrests carry serious consequences for law enforcement officers.
State law requires police departments to notify the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement whenever an officer is charged with a Class B misdemeanor.
Mission and other Rio Grande Valley police departments with civil service protections typically place officers on indefinite suspension after a drunken driving arrest. Officers may appeal, but often wait until the criminal case is over.
Police Chief Robert Dominguez suspended Beltran without pay for 12 days, admonishing him for unbecoming conduct and other policy violations.
“In the old days, those people would lose their jobs without pay instantly,” Guerra said. “Because they would be an embarrassment to the community.”
Dominguez didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment. It’s unclear whether or not the arrest will change Beltran’s behavior.
When Beltran applied to the Mission Police Department, he disclosed that Pharr police arrested him in “Approx 1993” for public intoxication, according to personnel records.
He paid a fine.
The Pharr Municipal Court couldn’t find any records from the 1993 arrest, but did find a public intoxication arrest from December 2009. Beltran pleaded no contest.
Asked about the prior arrests, Beltran declined to comment.