In DUI-related news, it seems that a good number of strange stories tend come out of the woodwork.
Poor decisions have a tendency to lead to more poor decisions, and sometimes the results can be pretty weird.
The variety of odd cases is remarkable, from a motorized recliner and a self-propelled barstool to a man charged with DUI while wearing a breathalyzer costume – and another who claimed to be his own country.
A recent story out of Tennessee is the latest entry into the log of strange DUI arrests and incidents.
According to the Johnson City Press, Veletta Cuba Newman from Elizabethton, Tenn., suffered an embarrassing case of mistaken identity after passing out in her car at a Sonic Drive-In.
Moments before, a passerby noticed Newman slumped behind the wheel of her car in a market parking lot. The witness watched as Newman awoke and proceeded to start her engine and drive erratically out of the parking lot, and then the witness called police.
By that time, Newman had parked her car in a spot at the Sonic Drive-In, where she presumably expected a food order to arrive at her window.
When Elizabethton Police Officer Sarah Ellison arrived at the scene, she knocked on the window of Newman’s car. Newman was again slumped behind the wheel.
Newman woke up and attempted to hand Officer Ellison a twenty dollar bill, mistakenly thinking that the cop was a car hop and attempting to pay for an order. Ellison explained that she was not a Sonic employee, but Newman persisted, continuing to hold out the money to the officer.
The story did not end well for Newman, who was arrested for DUI. Officer Ellison searched the car and found drug paraphernalia, including, according to the report, “a used syringe, a spoon with white powdery residue and numerous bottles of prescription medicine.”
Newman recently appeared in Sessions Court following the incident, under charges of a second offense of driving under the influence and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia. A hearing for Newman was set for April 6.
The newest reality celebrity to join the DUI arrest list was ‘The Hills’ cast member, Stephanie Pratt.
According to a CNN article, Pratt was arrested last month for a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence while on the way home from a Hollywood nightclub.
Earlier in the evening, Pratt attended fellow cast member Holly Montag’s birthday party. She was pulled over by California police around 3:45 a.m., on her way home from the party.
Pratt was taken to the Van Nuys jail for booking and she was released later that morning.
Pratt’s BAC content was 0.09 percent which was over the legal limit of 0.08 in the state of California. She pleaded not guilty to the DUI charges at her LA court hearing this month.
Pratt decided to enter a 30-day rehab facility. She told PEOPLE magazine that it, “was the worst thing to happen to me and, at the same time, it was the biggest blessing.”
Pratt’s DUI attorney, Jon Bryant Artz, claimed she was pulled over by the police because she has tinted windows on her vehicle. He continued to claim Pratt failed her sobriety tests due to her four-inch heels.
Pratt was not the first of the ‘Laguna Beach’ or ‘The Hills’ cast to run into trouble with the law.
Jason Whaler – Lauren Conrad’s infamous boyfriend on both reality shows – was arrested on a few assault charges and possession of alcohol as a minor.
Jessica Smith – former girlfriend of Jason Whaler and ‘Laguna Beach’ cast member – was arrested in 2007 for driving under the influence, according to an article in PEOPLE magazine.
Smith was driving with one passenger in her vehicle on a freeway near Laguna when she allegedly rear-ended the vehicle in front of her.
Both her passenger and the driver in the other vehicle suffered from minor injuries. Smith did not suffer any injuries.
The California highway patrol said in a statement that incident was caused due to, “the level of intoxication, unsafe speed, and wet roadway conditions.”
Reality celebrities are not immune to DUIs. This latest celebrity DUI arrest serves as another reminder that drinking under the influence imposes consequences for all.
When it comes to DUI, police are concerned primarily with the safety of drivers. However, when that goal starts to impinge upon the interests of local bars and restaurants that depend upon a steady flow of happy customers, a compromise might be in order.
Just such a situation has arisen in the city of Cape Coral, Fla., where a group of downtown bar and restaurant owners were concerned that the frequency of local police’s DUI checkpoints was hurting their businesses, according to a report from ABC 7.
Along the Cape Coral Parkway, an area filled with numerous bars and restaurants, DUI checkpoints were becoming a more and more frequent sight.
While the flagging economy may certainly have contributed to slow business at some of these restaurants, local business owners have recently voiced the suspicion that the DUI checkpoints may also be hurting their bottom line.
Leapin’ Lizards is a bar in the area that has experienced just such a lag in business. Bar owner May Ann Evans told ABC 7 that, rather than the economic conditions, customers are deterred by the police presence on the roads: “They’re just not going through the aggravation. They will avoid going to an area that’s just plagued with constant checkpoints.”
Evans and other business owners in the area have asked police to help find an alternative to the checkpoints that will maintain safety on the roads without compromising businesses in the area.
Recently, according to the report, local police have stated a willingness to massage their strategy by way of compromise.
Cape Coral Police Chief, Rob Petrovich, recently told the media that he is open-minded about compromise, and that he is considering saturation and foot patrols, which help deter drunk driving in a way that bar and restaurant owners consider to be more amendable to business.
“My dream,” Petrovich told ABC 7, “is for their parking lots to be full, for them to be fruitful and at the same time – everybody be safe.”
One local owner welcomes the new strategy. “Hopefully they’ll cut back a little on that and there will be a more personal relationship with the officers rather than a show of force kind of deal,” said Ed Sheridan, the co-owner of Eddie Fishbowls.
The bars and restaurants in the area have agreed, in turn, to explore creative ways to help prevent drunk driving, like taxi shares.
Richard Niemczyk, a resident of Hanover Park, Ill., was recently arrested for and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, according to The Courier-News.
The DUI charge was Niemczyk’s tenth such charge since 1991.
Niemczyk was arrested following an Oct. 21 incident at a local business, where a store employee reported to police that Niemczyk was acting belligerently while attempting to return merchandise to the store.
Police arrived on the scene, and told Niemczyk not to drive out of the business’ parking lot, determining after some investigation that his license had been revoked.
Niemczyk chose to disobey this directive, which proved to be a bad decision.
Police officers saw Niemczyk drive past them at a nearby intersection, a mere fifteen minutes after leaving the store. Driving a 1994 Ford Econoline van, he was arrested not only for driving with a revoked license, but he was also later charged with driving under the influence of alcohol.
A DuPage County Grand Jury recently indicted Niemczyk for aggravated driving while under the influence of alcohol.
Because it was his tenth DUI arrest since March of 1991, the charge was upgraded to a Class X felony, which can mean six to thirty years in a state penitentiary, and/or a fine of up to $25,000.
The local police department and the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office have, according to The Courier-News, “charged Niemczyk with a Class 1 Felony for aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol, a Class 4 Felony for aggravated driving with a revoked license, a Class A Misdemeanor for driving under the Influence of Alcohol and a Class A Misdemeanor for Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol with a blood alcohol content of .08 or more.”
Niemczyk is being held on $100,000 bail at the DuPage County Jail in Wheaton, Illinois, after an October 22 bail bond hearing.
The Courier-News report did not mention what merchandise he was attempting to return, or whether the attempt was ultimately successful.
There are many strange stories involving driving under the influence.
Some are tragic, changing the lives of those involved, while others, like a recent story out of Minnesota, simply boggle the mind.
In the town of Proctor, Minn., a man was stopped for driving drunk after he collided with a parked car, according to the Duluth News Tribune.
The suspect was returning home from the Keyboard Lounge, a bar where he had consumed eight to nine beers.
Unlike many involved in accidents while driving automobiles, Dennis LeRoy Anderson’s vehicle of choice was a supercharged La-Z-Boy reclining armchair.
Nobody was injured in the accident.
Anderson pleaded guilty to DWI in the incident. His blood alcohol content was measured at 0.29 percent. He has a prior DWI conviction on his record. He received a sentence of 180 days in the St. Louis County Jail or at the Northeast Regional Corrections Center, and must pay a $2,000 fine.
As a part of his probation, according to the News Tribune, “Anderson must submit to a chemical dependency assessment, follow all recommendations, abstain from alcohol and not-prescribed drugs, be subject to random testing and undergo 30 days of electronic monitoring.”
The recliner was customized to travel with a lawn mower engine controlled by a small steering wheel, a stereo, cup holders, and even headlights. To complete the décor, Anderson placed a National Hot Rod Racing Association sticker on the recliner’s headrest.
The chair can reach speeds up to twenty miles per hour, with some help, presumably, from the included nitrous booster.
Anderson’s La-Z-Boy was seized following the incident, as is common. It is now up for auction. The story itself has gained international coverage.
The Proctor Deputy Police Chief, Troy Foucault, was unprepared for the attention. According to the News Tribune, Foucault said, “Our secretary wasn’t too happy. She said, ‘What have you created?’ I said, ‘I talked to the News Tribune, and all of a sudden it’s a whirlwind.’ ’’
According to Minnesota law, it is a crime to operate a self-propelled motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs. Clearly the interpretation of this law extends to even the most unusual vehicles.
Anderson stated that his trip home in the La-Z-Boy was proceeding as he’d planned it until, “a woman jumped on it and knocked the chair off course.” It was at that point that he struck the parked car. Standers-by probably could have told the wannabe passenger that it was only a one-seater.
A recent Pennsylvania court case further proves that driving under the influence can have a profound impact on an individual’s life.
We all know that celebrity DUI arrests make headlines, but too often it is the ordinary citizen whose life takes a wrong turn as a result of an error in judgment. Not to mention, of course, the innocent bystanders who may fall victim to an incident involving a drunk driver.
Daryl Reinhardt, a mother and active community member from Hamilton Township, Pa., recently pleaded guilty to driving her car under the influence of alcohol when she hit a man walking on the side of the road, according to the Pocono Record.
Her blood alcohol level registered at 0.129 percent. The legal limit is 0.08 percent. Reinhardt pleaded guilty to one count each of homicide by vehicle, a class three felony, and first-offense driving under the influence of alcohol, an unrated misdemeanor.
She was sentenced to 11-23 months in county jail, according to WNEP local news.
Reinhardt was driving her Jeep Liberty SUV when she swerved onto the shoulder of the road and struck the victim, Darrin Brown, who was walking home from work.
Motorists who passed the scene of the accident stopped to assist Brown, but despite their efforts, he was later pronounced dead at the Pocono Medical Center. Reinhardt’s 14-year-old child was in the car at the time of the accident.
Reinhardt was not robbing a bank or running from the police. Nothing about the story was remarkable, except one poor decision that perhaps at the time didn’t seem like a big deal.
That one decision will now cost her two years of her life spent behind bars, and the immeasurable pain caused to the victim’s family and to her own.
Teresa Hicks spoke out on behalf of Reinhardt, her friend: “Daryl Reinhardt is a soccer mom, a great neighbor, a wonderful person. She supported me through breast cancer and her own breast cancer fight, my mother passing with cancer and her mother passing with cancer.”
Reinhardt wrote a letter to Darrin Brown’s estranged wife Wendy, but Brown was not sure she was ready to forgive. “I don’t know,” she said. “I have to know she felt bad about it.”
It’s impossible to tell if that forgiveness will come, or if the damage done on that night can be somehow reconciled. In the meantime, at the scene of the accident, several balloons were tied to a street sign to mark the place where so many lives were changed in just an instant.
In Salem, Ore., that’s exactly what happened to a man who dialed 9-1-1 to report his stash of pot missing, according to an Associated Press article.
Salem resident Calvin Hoover, 21, made an emergency call from his cell phone while he was driving down the road vomiting.
Hoover claimed that while he was inside a bar, his car was broken into and a jacket, cash and marijuana were stolen.
When sheriff’s deputies arrived, Hoover was arrested on DUI charges. Officials said there is no record of a defense attorney for Hoover.
Famous actor Mel Gibson recently had his drunken driving conviction expunged, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Gibson was pulled over back in July 2006 by a sheriff’s deputy on the Pacific Coast Highway in Los Angeles, Calif.
Gibson was driving his Lexus Sedan over 85 mph. He was given a breathalyzer test and his BAC content was at 0.12 percent – the legal limit is 0.08 percent.
According to CNN, Gibson was charged with a misdemeanor of drunken driving and an open container of alcohol in his vehicle. The open container charge is considered an infraction of the California Vehicle Code.
This was Gibson’s first offense, which is why he was able to expunge his record – or remove the DUI from his record.
He was eligible to expunge it from his record after he completed the terms of his probation. Gibson attended alcohol anonymous meetings, appeared in public service announcements and paid $1,300 in fines.
After the incident, the celebrity Web site TMZ posted Gibson’s arrest report. The report shows that Gibson did not go peacefully with the officer at the time of his arrest. He allegedly had an obscene outburst and tried to flee from the arresting officer, and then threatened the officer several times.
According to CNN, Gibson also made racial slurs, which became very public after his DUI arrest.
He stated, “The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.“ He then continued to ask the deputy if he was Jewish. This one night of drunken rowdiness may be expunged from his record, but not from the public eye.
CNN also reported that Gibson later released a statement after he made the comments: “I want to apologize specifically to everyone in the Jewish community for the vitriolic and harmful words that I said to a law enforcement official the night I was arrested on a DUI charge.”
He continued to state he blurted the comments out in a moment of insanity.
After Gibson’s arrest, people speculated he would get “special” treatment being a famous star, but an independent review board did find the sheriff’s department handled Gibson’s arrest “in accordance with its policies and practices.”
Over the Halloween holiday weekend, law enforcement outfits nationwide cracked down on intoxicated drivers by implementing special DUI checkpoint locations on roadways.
Across the state of Delaware, law enforcement officials reported 39 DUI-related arrests just this weekend alone, according to Delaware’s Daily Times.
Not only were 39 drivers apprehended for DUI, but officers also arrested nine citizens on the ‘wanted’ list; made 11 drug-related arrests; 11 felony arrests; and cited 11 minors for underage drinking. Various other traffic violations accounted for an additional 122 tickets.