MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — A key piece of evidence collected in Manatee County Commissioner George Kruse’s DUI investigation was ruled inadmissible, according to recently released court documents.

Judge Erika Quartermaine ruled the audio portion of the body camera footage captured at the crash site on April 20, 2022, cannot be used in an upcoming trial.

The decision comes months after Kruse’s attorney motioned to suppress the recording, alleging the deputy investigated the crash as a possible criminal case of DUI without reading Kruse his Miranda rights.

“The case law is clear that the law enforcement officer must ‘change hats’ from an accident investigation to a criminal investigation by first reading [Kruse] his Miranda warnings,” the motion stated. “Failure to do so renders any statement inadmissible in a criminal prosecution.”

A Manatee County Sheriff’s deputy speaks with Manatee County Commissioner George Kruse as he sits in the rear passenger seat of an SUV. (Credit: Manatee County Sheriff’s Office)

Quartermaine agreed with the argument, stating the officer did not comply with the statute, “Recognizing that law enforcement did not read Miranda or otherwise advise [Kruse] that a criminal investigation had begun, the State maintains the accident report privilege does not apply.”

However, the judge stated her ruling only applies to the audio portion of the body camera recording. The video may still be used.

The state may appeal the judge’s decision. The trial is set to begin on Monday, Feb. 6.

Kruse was involved in the single-vehicle wreck in April when his pick-up truck crashed head-on into a tree at the Greyhawk subdivision in Bradenton.

When deputies arrived, Kruse was seated in the rear passenger seat of his wife’s vehicle “in an overall confused state,” an incident report noted. Deputies said Kruse had watery eyes, slurred speech, clammy wet skin, and droopy eyelids.

A day after the crash, deputies reviewed a 911 call that was automatically initiated via the vehicle collision alert system. Deputies said the call picked up the voice of a man in the SUV that “sounded intoxicated.”

The man had slurred speech and did not respond at times, the report added. Several minutes into the call, Kruse’s wife, Jessica, was recorded trying to get the man out of the vehicle.

“Hey, are you okay?” Jessica can be heard saying. “I need you to get in my car. I need you to get in my car right now.”

When dispatchers asked for the woman’s location she responded, “We’re good,” and “We’re totally good.”

Once in the other vehicle, the man can be heard saying, “I can’t believe I did this,” the report added. At no time did the man identify himself in the recording.

When deputies arrived, they spoke with Jessica and discussed the commissioner’s alleged level of intoxication, explaining he was “obviously impaired,” and “there is no reason he should have been driving.” Deputies said his wife never denied the accusations.

Kruse was not arrested at the scene and was allowed to return home following the crash. The sheriff’s office concluded its investigation and handed all evidence over to the State Attorney’s Office.