Oldham County Judge Executive pulls driver over; police issue no ticket
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - A century ago, booze was illegal, and agents hired to enforce prohibition often had little to no training.
Alcohol laws have changed since then, but relics of prohibition live on.
The WAVE Troubleshooters found a Kentucky law on the books since the early 1940s gives certain politicians unchecked power.
A week before Christmas, a driver was stopped in Prospect, just outside of Oldham County, who was suspected of being drunk.
However, it wasn’t a police officer who pulled the driver over, it was Oldham County’s top elected leader.
“I’m not too familiar with Prospect, I grew up in Louisville,” said UberEats driver Mike Bandanna. “So I’m familiar with it in a sense, but I don’t drive out there often.”
Bandanna’s pseudonym is being used in this story because he was not cited or charged with a crime from the following traffic stop.
He was driving on December 19 through Prospect in his Hyundai Elantra around 8:30 p.m. He was trying to deliver a steak.
“Man this food is going to get cold,” Bandanna recalled.
He was checking his phone for directions when something else caught his eye.
“All of the sudden I saw blue lights,” Bandanna said.
“300 to radio,” came over the Oldham County dispatch centers airwaves.
“300, go ahead,” a dispatcher responded.
“Would you notify Anchorage police I’m right at Highway 42, just at the edge of the Oldham County line, I’ve stopped a drunk driver,” Unit 300 said. “They need to come down and do a breathalyzer, I’ve been following this guy for miles. He’s all over the road.”
Bandanna had no idea the person who pulled him over was Oldham County Judge Executive David Voegele, driving his county-owned car with his wife at his side.
“She was scared to death for whoever was out there, hey you have go to do something about this, this person is out of control,” Voegele said.
Voegele had flipped on the car’s blue emergency lights to stop Bandanna, and radioed for dispatchers to send an officer to help him.
“I can’t do anything except pull him over and sit here, I’m not getting out of the vehicle,” Voegele said.
“I wasn’t trying to do anything suspicious, put my hands up immediately,” Bandanna said. “My registration, license was out, but nobody got out the car. So I kind of just waited there.”
He stopped about a football field outside of Oldham County, not where Voegele planned, and not where he has any authority.
“I intended to hit the button when I crossed the county line, it was dark, I hit the button on the way up the hill before we got to Oldham County that activated the light,” Voegele said.
Help would take some time.
“We just talked to Prospect and wanted to give you a heads up they have an approximate 45 minute ETA,” radioed a dispatcher to an Oldham County Sheriff’s deputy.
“Oh my God, you’re serious?” responded the deputy.
“I’m dead serious,” the dispatcher said.
The recordings captured dispatchers debating where to pull officers from.
“There’s only 115, I mean I can send 119 from where he’s at,” one dispatcher said.
“Don’t pull him away from a run he’s already on, if Prospect (PD) is heading there,” said another dispatcher.
“Yeah, that’s where we’re at.”
“That’s a slippery slope.”
“Yeah, it is.”
“We only have four people,” said the dispatcher. “Well, I might just bite the bullet on this one and straight up just tell (Voegele) no, or not answer.”
They eventually called LMPD at Voegele’s suggestion.
“MetroSafe Operator Wright.”
“Hi, this is Oldham County Dispatch. We, I don’t even know how to say this, we have... our judge has attempted a traffic stop on U.S. 42 with a possible DUI at the county line.”
Meanwhile, Bandanna could only wait.
“I looked at the order, messaged the person, I’m going to be a little bit late,” Bandanna said.
Dispatch records show an Oldham County Deputy got there after 12 minutes. A Prospect officer arrived a minute later.
“Someone reported you swerving, and I was like ‘What do you mean,’ and they were like you ‘OK, step out of the car,’” recalled Bandanna.
The police began checking to see if Bandanna was drunk. The Oldham County Sheriff’s office denied WAVE’s request for the video of the field sobriety tests, saying Kentucky law makes them confidential.
The officer’s report said they had Bandanna blow into the portable breathalyzer twice. The report said Bandanna blew .075 the first time. The report said he blew .068 the second time. Both under the legal limit of .08.
“I drunk earlier in the day, but like, I was nowhere near like, let me have a couple beers and go out driving,” Bandanna said.
Bandanna told WAVE his last drink that day was 11 in the morning. The officers reported they had Bandanna take the other field sobriety tests. He passed those too.
“He was like look, you don’t seem drunk, you don’t smell drunk, you’re doing everything right, we’re going to let you go,” Bandanna recalled.
Finally, off Bandanna went.
“I didn’t know judges could do that, that don’t make sense,” Bandanna said. “I thought (police) pulled me over, I didn’t know it was the judge.”
Voegele doubles as Oldham County’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Administrator, in charge of approving and denying liquor licenses. WAVE found a state law from at least 1942 grants him and every other judge executive serving in that dual role full police powers in their respective counties.
“I may have that power, but I don’t use that power,” Voegele said. “One night in December, I saw somebody on the road. I asked him to get over to the side, and I called law enforcement to investigate.”
The state doesn’t require any police training for the judge executives. WAVE asked the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet about this law granting police powers to elected officials without training. A spokesperson ignored our questions and referred us to the General Assembly.
The law has been altered several times, but the police powers provision has remained.
“I may be the only county judge in the state of Kentucky to ask a guy to get to the side of the road because he appeared to be drunk,” Voegele said.
It’s also not clear if Voegele is allowed to have blue lights in his car. State law doesn’t define a county judge executive in any of the rules for equipping vehicles with flashing lights.
Still, the county paid more than $6,300 to equip Voegele’s take home car with police lights and a radio back in 2019.
“It has blue lights because in the past I’ve run across quite a few circumstances, I thought I needed to stop and warn the public there was a problem at this location,” Voegele said.
Bandanna said he no longer drives in Prospect at night.
“To have someone who’s out there with that authority without no training just kind of off his gut, sounds like somebody is just trying to create the law they want to create,” Bandanna said.
Voegele stands by his actions.
“I saw what I saw and did what I thought needed to be done,” Voegele said.
Voegele made an additional purchase for his county vehicle in January. $100 for a dash camera.
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