Boca Raton police arrest Broward County judge on DUI charge

A Broward County circuit court judge with a reputation as being tough on criminal defendants was booked into the Palm Beach County Jail overnight after Boca Raton Police arrested her on driving under the influence charge.

Cynthia Imperato, 56, was booked into the jail at 1:38 a.m. She was released from the jail at 7:05 a.m. on her own recognizance, jail records show.

Imperato has been a judge in the county since 2003 when she was appointed by then-Gov. Jeb Bush.

Chief Judge Peter Weinstein said he doesn’t know the details of the arrest but praised Imperato’s work as a judge.

“I just know that Cindy Imperato is a terrific judge and a wonderful human being,” Weinstein said. “I think a great deal of her and she’s entitled to the due process of the law.”

Boca Police received a call around 9:50 Tuesday night from someone who saw Imperato, in a white Mercedes-Benz, driving erratically in the area of 49 Northeast Second Street. The caller thought the driver was impaired and complained to a police dispatcher that he was nearly side-swiped twice by the Mercedes.

Police couldn’t find the car at that time but caught up with the car around 11:05 p.m. near 2400 W. Palmetto Park Rd., according to a police probable cause affidavit. The officer reported seeing Imperato driving erratically and almost hit another vehicle.

A second officer came to the scene and asked Imperato if she knew why she was stopped. Imperato said she was weaving, the affidavit says.

Imperato was asked to get out of the car, however she refused and said she was calling her attorney. The officer said Imperato was having trouble dialing numbers and also smelled alcohol coming from her. Her eyes appeared glassy and red, her speech slow and slurred and her face red and flush.

The officer again asked her to get out of the car but she continued to refuse. The officer then took Imperato’s cell phone, opened the car door and asked her to get out.

When she did get out of the car she used the door to push herself up, the affidavit says, and “had difficulty walking without losing her balance.”

Imperato refused to take a breath test and declined to walk in front of the patrol car for a DUI test. She was then placed under arrest and her car was towed.

Imperato worked as a police officer in Tallahassee from 1981 to 1990, earning a law degree from Florida State University while she was on the force. In 1990, Imperato was hired as an assistant statewide prosecutor where she remained until being tabbed to the bench in 2003 by Bush.

During her judgeship, Imperato has worked on some high profile cases including the 2012 trial of a man who, with the help of his father, killed a Nova Southeastern University professor. She also presided over the case of William “Billy” Ammons, who was sentenced to 15 years for a series of attacks on homeless men on January 12, 2006 that left one man dead.

A 2011 story in the New Times Broward-Palm Beach said Imperato was known for throwing the book at defendants found guilty.

“Imperato is former police officer and prosecutor who has kept that mentality in the courtroom,” according to the alternative weekly paper. “She’s not a fan of motions to suppress evidence and other defense-oriented techniques — and when it comes to sentencing those who are found guilty, she usually drops the hammer.”

Twitter: @alexseltzer

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