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October 1, 2014

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Questions surround decision not to charge constable in DUI case

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John Bonaventura, Las Vegas Township constable

Steve Wolfson

Steve Wolfson

Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson’s announcement last week that Las Vegas Township Constable John Bonaventura would not face charges for driving under the influence after his Feb. 12 arrest provided a small bit of vindication for the embattled constable, who had maintained all along he was under the legal limit when arrested.

But details in Wolfson’s statement and an arrest report raise questions about what happened the night a Nevada Highway Patrol officer pulled over Bonaventura in an official vehicle in a Walmart shopping center near Tropicana Avenue and McLeod Drive.

One point of confusion is a second constable’s vehicle that also may have been involved in the incident.

“Further investigation also showed that a different Constable’s Office vehicle may have been speeding, instead of the vehicle Mr. Bonaventura was driving at the time of his arrest,” Wolfson said in Friday’s statement.

Nevada Highway Patrol spokesman Loy Hixson said he was unaware of any other constable’s vehicles in the vicinity of Bonaventura’s arrest.

“I did see the statement from the DA’s office, but I’m not familiar with that,” Hixson said Monday. “It wasn’t mentioned in the report.”

Hixson said regardless of whether a second vehicle was involved, a Nevada Highway Patrol trooper witnessed the vehicle driven by Bonaventura speeding, giving her probable cause to pull over Bonaventura.

In initial reports after the arrest, Hixson said Bonaventura was “completely compliant” when stopped by the trooper, but the arrest report paints a different picture.

After the trooper initiated the stop and turned on her emergency lights, Bonaventura did not immediately pull over and responded by turning on the emergency lights in his own vehicle, the arrest report said.

When he got out of his vehicle, Bonaventura continued to refuse to follow the trooper’s instructions, the report said, prompting the trooper at one point to draw her Taser on the constable.

The trooper reported being fearful for her safety and that she felt “Bonaventura was trying to intimidate me with his status as an officer,” the report said.

Hixson said Bonaventura was considered compliant because he did not attempt to flee and no physical force was needed when making the arrest.

After being pulled over, Bonaventura was administered several field sobriety tests and a preliminary breath test.

According to the report, Bonaventura failed two of the three field sobriety tests and blew 0.099 on the breath test, over the legal limit.

However, preliminary breath tests are not admissible evidence in court under Nevada law, and Bonaventura was given two follow-up breath tests at the Clark County Detention Center, both of which showed his blood-alcohol content under the legal limit of 0.08.

Las Vegas attorney Mario Fenu, who handles drunken-driving cases, said the Breathalyzer used to conduct field breath tests could be inaccurate and prone to false positives due to poor calibration, improper use or manipulation by the officer administering the test.

“Forget science and just know that Nevada Revised Statute prohibits the use of the field sobriety Breathalyzer as evidence. It’s inadmissible,” Fenu said. “It can form the basis of probable cause in the field so that the officer can make a determination whether to arrest or not.”

The Breathalyzer device used at the Clark County Detention Center is more accurate and can be used as evidence in court, so long as the breath test is conducted within two hours of the initial arrest, Fenu said. Bonaventura’s follow-up breath tests were both administered about 1 hour and 45 minutes after his arrest.

A blood-alcohol content greater than 0.08 is not required to charge someone with driving under the influence, Fenu said. In those situations, a driver still can be prosecuted for driving impaired using testimony from the arresting officer along with the breath tests.

Was the constable given preferential treatment? Fenu hedged.

“This is when it comes down to officer discretion and prosecutorial discretion,” Fenu said. “I wish I could tell you there was a rhyme or a reason. I see cases that should never be filed but they file on them. Just because you were pulled over and arrested for DUI doesn’t mean you were driving under the influence.”

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  1. You couldn't make this stuff up...

    fiction has to have an element of believability.

    Ol' Boss Hogg is an amazin' character.

  2. Just remember one thing when dealing will City Hall in Las Vegas...Stay away from City Hall in Las Vegas!

  3. "When he got out of his vehicle, Bonaventura continued to refuse to follow the trooper's instructions, the report said, prompting the trooper at one point to draw her Taser on the constable.

    The trooper reported being fearful for her safety and that she felt "Bonaventura was trying to intimidate me with his status as an officer," the report said."

    .................So this guy thinks he's above the law, and low and behold he is...

    I don't understand why field sobriety tests are inadmissible in court. The problem with a test two hours later is that the alcohol in someone's system wears off, just like it did in this guys case.

    In the future, I suppose the first thing the officer should have done was tazer this jerk, shove him in her car, and bring him down for a breathalyzer so she could have the burden of proof taken off of her shoulders and put on an in house breathalyzer test.

    What a joke. I hope Wolfson doesn't mind losing his salary when he's not reelected next year.

    Thanks Wolfson. Thanks for making Las Vegas a joke.

  4. Isn't Steve Wolfson the same prosecutor who put his stamp of approval on police beating the hell out of a diabetic last year. Re-election is probably NOT in Wolfson's future.

  5. isn't the constable related to Judge Bonaventure?

  6. just noticed the names are spelled different

  7. Why doesn't the DA just use the previously unmentioned "third DUI test" that mysteriously becomes available once the two tests that were previously the only ones accounted for in any police reports show the driver was below the legal limit.

    You know like they've done in the past.

  8. Why did they wait until almost the entire 2 hours before administering the second test? And given that alcohol is metabolized by the system at a known rate if he blew .06x 1:45 after being stopped you can calculate what his alcohol content was at the time of his arrest.

    Bonaventura and Wolfson are obviously crooked but Metro and NHP better start being more forthcoming or they risk being painted with the same dirty brush.

  9. I can't wait for the next election to vote for a different prosecutor. Wolfson has run out of coupons.

  10. I could be wrong but I've read when someone is pulled over for DUI they can refuse a breathalyzer and field sobriety test.

  11. Mr. Davis,

    You are not completely wrong. You can refuse to take the field breathalyser but they can arrest you and take you in for the office one which you are required by law to take. They can also suspend your drivers license for refusing to take the field test. You can see an attorneys opinion on this here: http://www.shouselaw.com/nevada/dui/brea...

  12. Thank you, vegaslee. I am not really concerned about DUI since I do not drink. I am concerned about being pulled over by the "Barneys" for whatever and DUI being an added charge to stack tickets. Something I have heard is a common occurrence as abuse of limited power in Southern NV. I am not a wealthy man and real lawyers are expensive.

  13. So she pulls him over and HE gets out of his vehicle? Since when can you do that? Try that next time you get pulled over and see if you don't get tasered or worse, shot!

  14. She should have tazered him.

  15. Intimidation of an officer, and abuse of power.....never the less that whole driving while under the influence thing.

  16. oldPSUguy (and others,)

    There is no need to wait for the next election, Wolfson is subject to recall, even though he was appointed.

    "NRS 306.020 Public officers subject to recall from office; contents of petition for recall.

    1. Every public officer in the State of Nevada is subject to recall from office by the registered voters of the State or of the county, district or municipality that the public officer represents, as provided in this chapter and Section 9 of Article 2 of the Constitution of the State of Nevada. A public officer who is appointed to an elective office is subject to recall in the same manner as provided for an officer who is elected to that office." - http://www.leg.state.nv.us/NRS/NRS-306.h...

  17. What an embarrassment. Another perfect example of why most of the country doesn't take Nevada seriously.

  18. John Bonaventura is a loose cannon. But he was arrested because the trooper didn't like his attitude.