Sheriff arrested for alleged DUI

  • Sheriff Lance FitzGerald's mug shot, courtesy VineLink/Montrose County Jail
    Sheriff Lance FitzGerald's mug shot, courtesy VineLink/Montrose County Jail

The Ouray County Sheriff was arrested by one of his own deputies for alleged DUI last week, after he was found to have a breath-alcohol level almost twice the legal limit after driving.

According to court documents detailing the incident prior to Lance FitzGerald’s arrest, FitzGerald called one of his deputies to report his girlfriend had punched him in the face on Nov. 27.

Deputy Monty English responded to FitzGerald’s house in Elk Meadows and found FitzGerald was inebriated, according to the arrest affidavit. 

FitzGerald told English he had been drinking whiskey, beer and shots over the course of the night, according to the affidavit. FitzGerald was arrested after his girlfriend, Jamie Johnson, told deputies he had been driving.

FitzGerald had called English earlier to report that Johnson, 40, struck him after they had been out drinking at Colorado Boy in Ouray and Full Tilt in Ridgway and started fighting. They had an argument that started with FitzGerald becoming jealous about Johnson’s behavior at the bar during karaoke.

“He said that Jamie had become very flirtatious with several men in the bar and he became jealous and told her they had to leave,” the affidavit said. “On the drive home they got into an argument that became very heated and at one point Lance told me that he called Jamie a bitch."

Johnson allegedly hit FitzGerald in the face, bending his glasses and marking his nose. She did not admit to hitting him and said FitzGerald had been “throwing his arms around when they were fighting," according to the affidavit.

The Plaindealer does not normally name the victims of domestic violence in articles. The newspaper is identifying FitzGerald in this case because he is a public official and he was also arrested in connection with the situation.

English arrested Johnson first for suspected third-degree assault and domestic violence, and started driving her to Ridgway. Along the way, he called Undersheriff Ted Wolfe and consulted with him about returning to FitzGerald’s house to conduct roadside tests, since Johnson said FitzGerald had been driving. Wolfe advised English to get assistance transporting Johnson to the Montrose County Jail from a Ridgway marshal deputy and return to FitzGerald’s house for testing.

When English returned, he asked FitzGerald to do voluntary physical tests to indicate whether he was inebriated. At first, FitzGerald refused, and said he had been drinking after English left him at the house.

At that point, English arrested FitzGerald and advised him of the state’s express consent law, which requires drivers to cooperate with alcohol testing if an officer suspects they have been drinking and driving. Anyone who refuses to take the test can have that information used against them at trial as well as other consequences, including revocation of a driver's license.

On their way to the Montrose County Jail, FitzGerald agreed to take a breath test. The result was .133, nearly twice the legal limit.

FitzGerald is on personal leave at this time and is not at his office but said he hopes to return to work soon.

"I’m not proud of it in any way," he told the Plaindealer on Tuesday afternoon. "It definitely is kind of one of those things that it’s a life lesson that things can be going nice and smooth... and in just a matter of a few split seconds things can change in a heartbeat."

Look for an updated story in this week’s edition of the Ouray County Plaindealer, published on Thursday.