Former RPD officer's DUI and other charges not over just yet

The former Rogersville Police Officer who wrecked his motorcycle while driving under the influence had his DUI and several other charged dismissed May 18 due to a technicality; however, this case may not be over just yet.

Judge Todd Ross filed a “set aside” order on May 20 that stated the judgement and dismissal of charges entered on May 18 is set aside, and the matter is placed on the docket at a later date “for resumption and continuation of the preliminary hearing.”

The original “set aside” order set the matter on the docket for Wednesday, May 27; however, the THP officer who arrested Funk back in 2019 was unable to attend the court date. It has now been rescheduled for June 17.

“The set aside order means that the judge probably reconsidered some things that were put in the judgement,” RPD Chief Doug Nelson told the Review. “He took it all back just like it (the May 18 ruling) didn’t happen. The judge had a few days to do that. They’re going to have another hearing. There were some mistakes made at some point, I’m sure.”

In the meantime, Funk is still suspended from his position with the RPD and will remain so until the outcome of the June 17 hearing.

Funk arrested in August 2019

Chris James Funk, 44, was suspended from his job and arrested in August of 2019 after a motorcycle accident on East Main Street in Rogersville, near the intersection of Burem Road (SR 347).

According to a report by the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Funk was apparently headed east on the main thoroughfare through town when his 2016 Harley Davidson ran off the right side of the street and overturned onto its side.

The driver was still at the scene, THP said, and “exhibited signs of impairment”.

Funk “refused to perform field sobriety tests or submit to a breath and or blood test,” the report states. “A search warrant was obtained by the Tennessee Highway Patrol for a blood test. During the investigation a handgun was also discovered belonging to the driver.”

Funk, who was not injured in the crash, was transported to the Hawkins Co. Jail where he was formally charged with failure to maintain lane, DUI (first), violation of implied consent, possession of a handgun while under the influence, and having no proof of insurance.

He was released from jail the following Monday morning and arraigned in Hawkins Co. Sessions Court.

Charges dismissed on May 18

During the Monday, May 18 court hearing, Defense Attorney Daniel Boyd argued that the aforementioned search warrant, which was obtained for Funk’s blood test, was flawed because it did not contain a judge’s signature. This signature is required after the search warrant is executed.

Judge Todd Ross ultimately ruled in favor of Boyd’s argument and determined that all evidence obtained as a result of the flawed search warrant was inadmissible.

Ross also ruled that the THP officer made an error in relation to Funk’s ‘violation of implied consent’ charge. An implied consent violation occurs when a DUI suspect refuses to submit to a blood or breathalyzer test.

The THP officer placed Funk’s ‘violation of implied consent’ charge on the same warrant as the other charges against him; however, the law requires that this charge be placed on a separate warrant. Thus, this charge was dismissed on a technicality as well.

In the end, Ross dismissed all charges against Funk including DUI, failure to maintain lane, violation of implied consent, possession of a handgun while under the influence and having no proof of insurance.

Matter to be back in court on June 17 The set-aside order explains that “following the conclusion of the (May 18) hearing, the Court conducted research regarding the failure of the charging officer to make a timely return of the search warrant issued in this matter for a blood draw of the Defendant.”

Though Ross ruled on May 18 that this error caused evidence obtained as a result of the flawed search warrant to be inadmissible, this research found that this particular issue was heard in a Tennessee Court of Appeals case.

In the Court of Appeals case, it was found that the error did not make the search warrant invalid.

As a result, Funk will go back to court on June 17 to resume the preliminary hearing.

A former deputy with the Hawkins Co. Sheriff’s Office, Funk had been employed by the Rogersville Police Department since January, 2013.

Since his suspension, his old position with the RPD has been filled.