State trooper who ticketed state lawmaker challenges firing

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A Florida state trooper was fired, he says, for ticketing a state lawmaker.

The trooper, Charles Swindle, says it's an unspoken rule of the Florida Highway Patrol to give elected officials a break.

In November, Swindle pulled over state Rep. Charles McBurney on Interstate 10 and told him he was speeding, going 87 mph in a 70 mph zone. McBurney says he wasn't speeding.

When asked if he asked for any favors and told the trooper he was a state lawmaker, McBurney said, "Absolutely not. That is totally inappropriate."

In an exclusive interview, McBurney said the trooper saw his state Legislature specialty plate and asked if he was a lawmaker. He then told McBurney he was going to ignore the speeding violation and ticket him for not having proof of insurance.

"Right behind my driver's license is my proof of insurance, which was there all along," McBurney said.

He said he tried to show Swindle his insurance card.

"So then he said to the effect, 'Look, you can pay this fine of $250, the speeding ticket, or you can pay this $10 proof of insurance,'" McBurney said.

McBurney complained and Swindle was fired. Now, Swindle is challenging his termination. He says there's an unspoken rule at FHP to let lawmakers off easy, and he was just trying to cut McBurney a break.

FHP Lt. Col Ernie Duarte said the allegation that lawmakers get special treatment on the roadways is "absolutely not" true.

As for state lawmakers, have their specialty plates ever got them out of a ticket?

Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami, said he's never been given special treatment for having that plate.

"I've actually received tickets with those plates," he said.

Swindle's attorney did not return a call or email for comment.

On the day McBurney was ticketed, another state lawmaker was also pulled over by Swindle. According to the investigator's general report, Swindle also told Rep. Mike Clelland he was doing 87 mph in a 70 mph zone, but he would write him a ticket for no proof of insurance.

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