20-year-old Sarasota woman charged with DUI after driving wrong way on I-75 and colliding with deputy’s marked patrol vehicle

Riannon Wittenbauer fails field sobriety exercises, deputy notes in report

Riannon Elizabeth Wittenbauer. Image courtesy Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office

A 20-year-old Sarasota woman has been charged with Driving Under the Influence after she collided head-on with a deputy on Interstate 75 in Sarasota, the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office has reported.

Riannon Elizabeth Wittenbauer of Apt. 314, 12551 Honore Ave. in Sarasota, also was charged with one count each of DUI with Property Damage and Reckless Driving, a news release says. She was released from jail on Feb. 17 on $740 bond, the release adds.

The Sheriff’s Office incident report listed her occupation as a home health aide.

Her arraignment on all charges has been set for April 6, the Sheriff’s Office’s Corrections Division notes in its records.

The incident occurred south of Clark Road, according to the report.

Deputies were alerted shortly before 1:30 a.m. on Feb. 17 that a driver was traveling northbound in the southbound lanes of State Road 681 in Venice, the Sheriff’s Office report said. As deputies were en route, the report added, another caller told 911 Dispatch that the driver had entered I-75 and still was traveling north in the southbound lanes.

While deputies were responding to the information provided by 911 Dispatch, the report continued, multiple calls began coming in about the driver heading the wrong way.

A deputy was southbound in his marked patrol vehicle — a Chevrolet Tahoe — in the center lane, approaching mile marker 203, when he observed the headlights of the northbound vehicle, the report said. The deputy then activated his emergency equipment and slowed his vehicle, it added.

At that point, the report continued, the wrong-way vehicle shifted from the left southbound lane into the center lane, traveling directly in the path of the deputy’s vehicle, with which it collided, the report added.

A section of the report said damage to the patrol vehicle was estimated at $40,000.

The Sheriff’s Office sent out an email alert about the incident at 1:15 a.m. on Feb. 17, noting that only minor injuries had been reported. Southbound traffic on I-75 was being rerouted at Clark Road, the email said. At 2:45 a.m., a subsequent alert noted that all lanes of I-75 had reopened.

Wittenbauer, who was the sole occupant of the wrong-way vehicle, was still sitting in her 2015 Nissan Altima when other deputies arrived on the scene, the Sheriff’s Office incident report said.

The deputy who wrote the narrative explained that he observed Wittenbauer’s eyes to be bloodshot and watery, while “[h]er speech was slurred, thick tongued and low in volume.” The deputy added, “I observed her movements to be lethargic and slow.”

The deputy then noted that he “smelled the distinct and obvious odor of alcoholic beverage coming from her person. The odor intensified when she spoke. Wittenbauer swayed while walking” and when she was standing, the deputy added.

These are the vehicles following the collision. Image courtesy Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office

After the deputy read Wittenbauer her rights, the report continued, she told the deputy she was heading home after spending time with friends. Her vision was blurry, she continued, “because she was not wearing her contacts and that is why she collided with the Deputy.”

Wittenbauer then told the deputy that she had slept for approximately one hour the previous night “and had eaten little throughout the day,” the report said. “She told me that she is taking a prescription medication,” the deputy continued, noting that she also said “sometimes she increases the amount she takes when she feels like she needs to do so.” (The report described Wittenbauer as being 4 feet 11 inches tall and weighing 87 pounds.)

Wittenbauer further told the deputy that she had not taken any narcotics and “had not smoked marijuana in a month,” the report added. She also maintained that she is not diabetic “and does not have a history of any major injuries or concussions.” Moreover, she said she had not consumed any alcoholic beverages that day or evening, the report noted.

She added that she thought she was driving about 86 mph at the time of the collision, the report said.

This is a closer view of Riannon Wittenbauer’s vehicle after the collision. Image courtesy Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office

After initially refusing to do so, Wittenbauer finally consented to taking a field sobriety test, the report continued. She followed the deputy’s directions for three sets of exercises —including the One Leg Stand, the report said; the deputy wrote that her responses were “indicative of a person under the influence of alcohol and/or controlled substances to the point that their normal faculties are impaired.”

After Wittenbauer was arrested, the report noted, she refused to take a breath sample to determine alcohol content. “The defendant asked many times what she else she could do to show that she had not been drinking,” the deputy wrote, and he “repeatedly told her she can provide a breath sample. She continued to refuse.”

Then, the report said, after she was booked into the jail, “Wittenbauer stated that when she gets out she is going to smoke a huge bowl (referencing marijuana).”