Mobile County 911 Director Charlie McNichol was arrested for public intoxication around midnight on Friday but was not charged with DUI despite being behind the wheel of a car.
While he wasn’t clear on all of the details, Spanish Fort Police Chief David Edgar told Lagniappe McNichol’s vehicle was spotted at the intersection of Highway 31 and Highway 90 shortly after 12:20 a.m. on the morning of Friday, Oct. 12.
“It is my understanding that the vehicle was already stopped,” Edgar said when asked if the arresting officer had pulled McNichol’s vehicle over from the roadway.
Edgar said the arresting officer’s report doesn’t mention any other passengers being in the vehicle, and though it wasn’t specifically stated, he believes McNichol was in the driver’s seat. McNichol was booked into the Daphne City Jail shortly after the incident occurred and has since been released.
In Alabama, a person commits the crime of ‘driving under the influence of alcohol’ if they are found driving or “in actual physical control of any vehicle” with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or greater.
However, at this point, it’s unclear whether McNichol was subjected to a sobriety test.
While there is no set standard for what defines being “in actual physical control” of a car, police in Alabama can — and have — successfully charged motorists with DUI in cases when they did not witness the person actually operating a vehicle.
To file a charge of public intoxication, an officer does not have to administer a sobriety test.
The state code defines the offense as appearing to be “under the influence of alcohol, narcotics or other drugs to the degree that he endangers himself or another person or property” or by exhibiting “boisterous and offensive conduct that annoys another person in his vicinity.”
When asked why McNichol wasn’t charged with DUI, Edgar said the arresting officer would have had discretion over which charge was more appropriate for the situation.
“They’re faced with discretion on when to make an arrest and when not to as well as what the proper charges should be,” Edgar said. “You have to prove [those charges], and some charges are easier to prove than others.”
Edgar said the responding officer captured body camera and dash camera footage of the incident. It’s SFPD’s policy not to release body camera footage of an incident that hasn’t been adjudicated, but Edgar said it would be released once McNichol’s criminal charge is settled.
McNichol, who has a background in law enforcement, has previously served as the Assistant Chief of the Daphne Police Department and as a Law Enforcement Coordinator on the federal level for the Southern District of Alabama under former U.S. Attorney David York.
Reached by email, McNichol told Lagniappe he was “embarrassed” by the incident and added that he met with 911 Board President Steve Bowden about it earlier in the day on Friday.
“This was a mistake that I made. I make no excuse for my poor judgment,” McNichol said. “I have had some life stressors with health issues recently, and I obviously did not handle this well. I will seek assistance and work through this terrible event.”