Broward Circuit Judge Cynthia Imperato was charged with drunken driving in Boca Raton, according to the city’s police department.
Imperato, 56, was released Wednesday morning from Palm Beach County Jail on her personal recognizance.
Imperato and her husband, Gabriel Imperato, managing partner of the Fort Lauderdale office of Broad and Cassel, are considered one of Broward County’s more influential power couples.
A sign on Imperato’s courtroom door Wednesday—she has been a criminal division judge since 2003—stated she was out sick. Her judicial assistant, Pamela Desmond, would said only that the judge was unavailable.
Robert Jesionek, the Boca Raton police investigating officer, filed a probable cause affidavit stating Imperato refused to take an Intoxilyzer test or otherwise cooperate with officers after she was pulled over for erratic driving.
The report states that at 9:49 p.m. Tuesday police received a call about a white Mercedes-Benz driving erratically in a commercial district near 49 NE Second St. between Federal Highway and Dixie Highway. The caller believed the driver might be impaired, but the responding officer didn’t spot the car.
At 10:53 p.m., a patrol officer stopped a white Mercedes-Benz about three miles away at 2400 W. Palmetto Park Road after observing it moving erratically. The vehicle nearly struck another car at one point, the officer told Jesionek.
Jesionek arrived three minutes after the stop and questioned Imperato. While she was still behind the wheel, Jesionek asked if she knew why she was stopped.
“She stated she was weaving,” Jesionek said.
Imperato denied having any medical issues.
“While we were talking, I could smell a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from her breath,” Jesionek wrote, noting her eyes were red and glassy, her speech was slow and slurred, and her face was red and flushed.
He activated his car camera and asked Imperato to get out of her car. She refused and attempted to call her attorney, but Jesionek noticed she was having trouble dialing. He asked her several more times to get out but to no avail.
Jesionek took her phone, put it on the hood of her car and opened the door. After asking her again to exit, she used the door to push herself up, he reported.
The officer asked her to walk to the front of his vehicle. She refused and was then arrested. At the station, she refused the breath test.
Imperato was given a court date of Dec. 2, and the video of the traffic stop was delivered to the police evidence room, Jesionek stated.
The arrest is surprising given Imperato’s strong law-and-order reputation.
She was a police officer for nine years in Tallahassee. After getting her law degree at Florida State University, she served as a staff attorney at Florida State Hospital in Chattahoochee, representing mentally ill patients. She was then a senior statewide prosecutor for 13 years. Imperato was appointed to the bench by Gov. Jeb Bush in 2003.
Brooke Kennerly, executive director of the state Judicial Qualifications Commission, said the commission can look into any activity by a judge that does not comport with the judicial code of conduct. It does not have to wait for a police or state attorney’s investigation, she said.