Chris Klein Enters Rehab After DUI Arrest

By Topher

Celebrity DUI arrests made headlines again this week, both involving actors known for their work in the early 2000s.

Actor Chris Klein, best known for his role in the hit “American Pie” movie checked into rehab after he was arrested for DUI for the second time, according to People.com.

Klein was arrested on suspicion of DUI on June 16 by the California Highway Patrol, after he was seen swerving across lanes on the Hollywood Freeway in Los Angeles.

He measured, according to police, a blood-alcohol content nearly three times the legal limit. The 31-year-old actor had faced DUI charges in the past in San Diego County, when he was pulled over in 2005.

According to People.com, his decision to enter rehab was a decision he made as a way to bring others in to help him with an alcohol problem that he’d been dealing with by himself for years.

“[Klein] understands now that he can not beat this disease alone,” said his representative. “He thanks everyone for their support as he takes all the necessary steps to deal with his addiction and asks for privacy while doing so.”

Klein will seek treatment at a center in Utah called the Cirque Lodge. Lindsay Lohan, Kirsten Dunst, Melanie Griffith and other celebrities received treatment at the same facility.

Klein was once engaged to starlet Katie Holmes. He will enter a 30-day program, with a plan to stay longer if he needs to.

Soproanos Star Arrested for DUI in Florida

Joseph Gannascoli, who played Vito Spatafore on the successful HBO drama “The Sopranos,” faces DUI charges in Tampa, Florida. The 51-year-old Gannascoli was pulled over just before 3 a.m. by a police officer dedicated to DUI stops when he made a wide turn, drifted in his lane and drove over a lane marker.

The officer smelled alcohol and noted Gannascoli’s slurred speech, so he administered a field sobriety test. The actor failed the test, and blew a .111 on a Breathalyzer test. He was arrested for suspicion of DUI.

Gannascoli’s website noted that he was in town to promote his brand of cigars.



DUI Suspect Cracks Beer in Wrecked Car

By Topher

This week’s round-up of strange DUI tales features one man who seems to lack the sense to quit while he’s behind, cracking a fresh brew while trapped in his crashed car.

Another woman let the people testing her blood know that they would find a veritable cocktail of pharmaceuticals.

In Wellington, New Zealand, Paul Sneddon hadn’t merely crashed his car. He flipped his vehicle over after running into a wooden barrier along the highway. Already drunk, he found himself flipped around, trapped behind doors that were wedged shut in the crash.

What did he do to pass the time as police made their way to the scene? He cracked open another beer and had himself a drink.

Sneddon plead guilty to driving drunk recently, and his lawyer told the court that “he had nothing else to do at that point,” being trapped in the car, “so he had another beer.”

When the police finally arrived at the vehicle and helped Sneddon break out, his blood-alcohol content was measured at 1,191 micrograms, which is almost three times the 400 micrograms legal limit for driving.

Sneddon had gone on a bender after he was fired from his job at a bakery. When asked how much he’d had to drink, he told police that he’d been drinking for four days straight.

In Kingsport, Tennessee, a woman who had been charged with DUI decided to let the police and her blood testers know what they were going to find when they completed those tests.

Bobbie K. Cato said that the drug test would fine only a few drugs. At the scene of the crime she had claimed innocence from taking any drugs or alcohol, but at the hospital she admitted to taking an array of drugs, including Xanax, Lortab and Phenergan.

According to police, the over-sharing Cato was arrested when her car was found blocking a convenience store entrance. She was lying across the passenger seat, her legs dangling out of the car.

She posted bond and will be due back in court soon, where authorities will learn whether her predictions about her own drug test are accurate.



DUI Checkpoint Reveals Goat in Trunk of Car

By Topher

DUI checkpoints are a hot topic as to whether random vehicle checks are constitutional solely because they can keep drivers safe. Rarely, however, are DUI checkpoints debated as to whether or not they can keep animals safe.

A recent DUI checkpoint in Bedford County, Virginia surveyed nearly 15,000 cars, resulting in three DUI arrests, a drug bust and the rescue of one goat, reports the News Advance in Lynchburg.

Bedford County authorities pulled over 32-year-old Fiona Ann Enderdy and asked about the strange noises coming from her trunk.

Fearing a human might be trapped inside, officers were startled to find a goat, bound at the feet and thrashing around inside the trunk.

This is not the first time an animal has been found at a DUI checkpoint. Sign on San Diego reports that just one month ago, police found a “dog-napped” shih tzu in a car that had been stopped for routine reasons. That animal was returned to its proper owners who were excited to have their family pet returned.

When the goat was discovered he wasn’t the only oddity earning the police’s attention. No loving family Officers in that case were far more interested in the other passengers — suspected illegal immigrants from Africa.

WSLS reports that while Ms. Enderdy is a resident of the Washington, D.C. area, she is actually a transport from Great Britain. Apparently, when asked why the goat was in her trunk, Ms. Enderdy replied that in Great Britain, it is perfectly acceptable to transport a goat in the trunk of a car.

The goat was bought from a local farmer, and was a gift to the Kenyan immigrants who were traveling with her.

Luckily, an animal control expert was also at the checkpoint. He measured the heat in the trunk of the car and found it to be at a steamy and none-too-comfortable 94 degrees.

The goat, who was panting heavily, was given water, a check-up, and sent to the pound. The Roanoke news reports that since being sent to the pound, the goat has been recovering.

He is “just chilling and as happy as can be,” says Lt. Darryl Saunders.

The goat wasn’t the only one in the car who was sent to the clink. Enderdy was arrested and released after being charged with animal cruelty. She is to attend an advisement hearing on July eighth, where her fate as to the charge will be determined.

The goat’s fate will be determined at a separate hearing in the Bedford County General District Court.



Minnesota Congressional Hopeful Must Answer for Past DUI Arrests

By Topher

Teresa Collett, the law professor who is running for a congressional seat in the state, recently revealed previous run-ins with the law included DUI arrests.

The St. Paul resident was arrested for driving while under the influence of alcohol, according to the Star Tribune. The article also goes on to say that it is rare for a congressional candidate in Minnesota that has been endorsed by a political party. Collett has been endorsed by the Republican party.

Police records indicate that Collett was arrested for drunken driving, and she received a citation for careless driving. She acknowledged in an interview that she had been drinking alcohol, but also said that she had been taking an antidepressant for the symptoms of migraines. That drug, she claimed, made the effects of the alcohol more dramatic.

Collett said that she told her GOP endorsers about her DUI record before they officially lodged their endorsement. State Republican Party chair Tony Sutton was one of the people who learned about the DUI.

“I said, ‘Look, you make mistakes, you make amends for those mistakes and you move on,’” said Sutton. “She’s a human being. And I don’t think this detracts one bit from her ability to serve in the Congress and to do a great job for the people of the Fourth District.”

The arrest for DUI came in 2006, when a fellow motorist saw her weaving back and forth on the road and called the police near Minnetonka. A police officer later saw the same thing as Collett’s car swerved into an oncoming lane.

Her blood-alcohol content was measured at 0.17 percent, and the officer discontinued the field sobriety test because Collett kept losing her balance. She told the police that she had been to a wine bar after a meeting with the dean of the school where she is a professor, and that she had at least three glasses of wine before she got behind the wheel to drive home.

“Ms. Collett told me that she was supposed to have a talk with her husband tonight about her drinking,” the officer included in his report.

Collett would plead guilty to the DUI charge, and accepted the 30-day workhouse sentence, which was converted to two days of community service and two years of probation.



New Wisconsin DUI Laws Take Effect Soon

By Topher

The State of Wisconsin is working hard to overcome its perceived culture of intoxication by imposing tougher DUI penalties.

Wisconsin leads the nation in binge drinking and drunk driving crashes, according to numbers cited in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

But a new push has led to a new series of DUI laws that take effect on July 1, 2010. The new laws include stiffer penalties for drunk drivers found with young passengers, a high blood alcohol content and multiple offenses on record.

The new Wisconsin DUI laws include additional penalties for the following offenses:

  • First DUI Offense: A person convicted of a first or second DUI offense who has a passenger under the age of sixteen in the car faces a fine of $350-$1100 or jail time ranging from five days to six months. If a first time offender DUI offender has a blood alcohol level of greater than 0.15 then an interlock ignition device will be installed.
  • Third DUI Offense: A person convicted of a third DUI offense will receive at least 45 days in prison. The sentence used to be 30 days.
  • Fourth DUI Offense: If an offender is convicted a fourth time within five years, it will be considered a felony. There will also be a fine will between $600 and $10,000, and possible jail time will range between six months to six years.
  • Seventh, Eighth, or Ninth Offense: A person convicted of this many DUIs will serve at least three years in jail for each offense.
  • Tenth Offense: A person committing a tenth offense would receive at least four years of jail time.
  • Repeat DUI offenders: Repeat DUI offenders convicted of DUI causing injury would receive up to six years in jail or would be required to pay up to $2,000 in fines. This punishment would be doubled if there was a minor in the car at the time of the offense.
  • Offenders with a lower BAC will face the same penalties: Under the old regulations, offenders with a blood alcohol level below .10 but still above the legal limit were subject to lighter penalties, but that is no longer the case.

The bill is expected to cost Wisconsin an extra $12.8 million per year, largely due to the costs required to house inmates. This cost is expected to be offset by the introduction of higher fees to reinstate revoked or suspended licenses, as well as by a program that would allow judges to decrease jail time in return for offenders completing a drug or alcohol abuse course.

Supporters of the bill say that this will not only drive the cost of the bill down, but decrease the rate of repeat offenders, saving Wisconsin money in the long-term.

Polls indicate that the Wisconsin public is firmly behind the change in the drunk driving laws.

Wisconsin Public Radio and St. Norbert College conducted a survey of 400 people, 85 percent of whom support the bill. Fifty-five percent also support using a higher liquor tax to help finance the bill, though that idea was struck down by Wisconsin Assembly Democrats before the bill was passed.



Thomas Kinkade, Painter of Light, Arrested for DUI

By Topher

Thomas Kinkade is known as the Painter of Light for his luminous, other-wordly paintings of rustic village scenes and spiritual scenery.

But the picture wasn’t so rosy for the famous artist when he was arrested for DUI in Carmel, California, recently, according to the Monterey Herald.

Kinkade was driving his 2006 Mercedes Benz just after nine o’clock in the evening on a Friday when police pulled him over because the car did not have a front license plate on it. When officers approached the vehicle, they could smell alcohol coming from the driver, Kinkade.

Officers called in the California Highway Patrol, who proceeded with their investigation for driving under the influence. A CHP officer gave Kinkade a field sobriety test, according to the CHP.

Kinkade, though polite and cooperative, did register “signs of impairment” in the judgment of the officer who was giving the field sobriety test.

The Painter of Light was then arrested and taken to a medical center, where the results of his blood-alcohol content were measured, and from which the results are pending. Kinkade was booked in jail and released on bail.

Kinkade is a resident of Carmel. The news came after the recent story that his production company was filling for bankruptcy.

More Celebrity DUI News

In another job for the California Highway Patrol, San Francisco 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald was arrested for suspicion of DUI on a recent Saturday evening. McDonald was allegedly driving 94 miles per hour in a 65 mph zone when he was pulled over.

He was driving a black BMW, and police noticed an odor of alcohol in the car when he approached the driver’s side. While it’s not known if McDonald took a breath test or a blood-alcohol content test, he did take a field sobriety test, and was arrested on suspicion of DUI after that point. He was booked into county jail and released soon after.

According to the 49ers, the 25-year-old McDonald quickly informed them of the incident. He was present at their most recent practice the morning after the arrest. He also apologized for his actions.

“My intent is just to come out here and work hard and try to win ball games this year,” he said. “And I don’t want this to be a distraction for the fans, my family, my teammates. That’s pretty much it.”

This wasn’t the first brush with the law at NFL training camp. In 2006, another 49er was stopped for speeding in the area. Receiver Antonio Bryant was driving his orange Lamborghini over 100 miles per hour when he passed a police cruiser on the highway. Bryant was so belligerent that he had to be held down with restraints. The charges were later dropped, though Bryant was suspended for four games.



Missouri DUI Leads to 28 Years in Jail After Crash

By Topher

In Missouri, a man who has repeatedly been charged with DUI received a 28-year prison sentence after he killed three people in a drunk driving accident.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is reporting that Newton Keene had avoided severe repercussions for DUI convictions in the past. Keene, however, was convicted and sentenced for three counts of aggravated drunken driving resulting in death and one count of drunken driving causing bodily harm. The sentence included a plea bargain negotiated by Keene which resulted in the dropping of lesser charges.

The 28-year sentence represents the maximum penalty for the crimes in question. Keene has to serve at least 85 percent of the term, which comes to about 24 years, before he can be eligible for parole.

Keene was driving the wrong way on the Interstate at 2 a.m. in the morning when he struck and killed Tawanda Jackson, her friend Jon Moss and her son Arnold. Her daughter, Takia, who was eleven-years-old at the time, survived the crash. They were returning home from the funeral of Jackson’s grandmother.

Keene registered a blood-alcohol content of .24 percent, which is three times the legal limit. Takia was very emotional as she listened to the charges announced at the sentencing. Keene declined to make a statement.

When the accident occurred, Keene had already been convicted and jailed for his fifth DUI. He was arrested twice after that, though police did not seek felony charges in those cases. He went to prison in 2000, on a five-year felony DUI sentence, but was released after just 120 days.

Speaking of the maximum penalty in the case, Madison County State’s Attorney William Mudge said, “This is the only way to keep the public safe from Mr. Keene.”

A relative of the victims, Thomas Marble, had consented to the plea deal. The family did also, however, express their discontent that the maximum penalty was not higher for such an offense.

The Post-Dispatch has featured a series of investigations last year highlighting the problem of repeat offenders slipping through the cracks. According to the article, these investigations led to improved legislation to close that gap.



Strange DUI Tales From Across the Country

By Topher

If you watch the news tickers as we do, there never seems to be a shortage of news stories that chronicle the strange and precarious situations that result from the unfortunate decisions of drunk drivers

This week’s round-up features the same collection of oddities and unfortunate incidents from across the country.

New York: After Liver Transplant, a DUI

In New York state, a man was arrested for and admitted to driving while intoxicated after he injured a pedestrian and ran his vehicle into several other cars back in March of this year. He was driving with a blood-alcohol content that was seven times more than the legal limit.

The 32-year-old was the recent recipient of a transplanted liver. He plead guilty to aggravated drunk driving, reported WIVB.

Idaho: DUI Crash in Irrigation Canal

In Boise, Idaho, police arrived at the scene of an accident prepared to rescue a man who had driven his car into an irrigation canal. Before they left the scene, they had pegged the driver, Gerardo Huerta-Flores Jerome, with a DUI citation.

Huerta-Flores was speeding in a work zone around dawn when he veered off the road and his vehicle rolled into the canal. A trooper passing by saw parts of the accident. He stopped and waded out into the ditch and pulled Jerome from the car, which was under water.

The driver went to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, reported Fox12.

In North Dakota: Billboards Track DUI Arrests

In Fargo, North Dakota, police have taken a decidedly public approach to cutting down on DUI arrests: they are displaying the latest number of arrests on several electronic billboards.

Police in Fargo installed two billboards in the city, which will display the number of arrests for driving under the influence that have occurred in the city. The count will update every Friday. Fargo police Sgt. Mike Bernier considers the billboards an educational tool with a simple goal: “We’re just trying to get people to not drink and drive,” he said.

A state grant had paid for the purchase and maintenance of the signs. The total cost for the effort was around $7,000.

Georgia Man Steals Own Car During DUI

In Rome, Georgia, a man reported that his car had been stolen while he was at the store. Three hours later, that man was arrested. He was driving the very car that he had reported stolen, and he was allegedly driving it drunk.

He was arrested for DUI and false report of a crime, reported the Atlanta Journal Constitution.



California Bus Driver Arrested for DUI on Job

By Topher

In Encinitas, California, a North County Transit bus driver has been accused of drunk driving while operating a county bus, KFMB-TV is reporting.

David Joseph Costello already has a history of alcohol-related offenses when he was hired to be a bus driver for the county. Now he faces accusations that his blood-alcohol content was six times the legal limit defined for commercial vehicle operators. This limit is more strict than those of private drivers.

Costello was arrested for DUI after a passenger on the bus that he was driving called 911.

Emily Knudsen was riding the bus on her way to work when she noticed the driver, Costello, behaving oddly. According to her account, he was stopping the bus irregularly, for no reason that she could determine, and at one point he even pulled the bus over, stepped out and urinated in the bushes.

“I told [the police dispatcher] I just got off a bus with a driver I thought was intoxicated or something,” she told KFMB-TV.

After Costello returned from the bushes, he was allegedly staggering. The officer that pulled over Costello and investigated noted that he smelled a strong odor of alcohol.

“I saw his right eye was almost completely closed,” said Deputy Brenda Wiebe. “His movements were very slow and his speech was slow and slurred.”

Costello failed a field sobriety test and a field breath test. He registered a .25 percent blood-alcohol content and a .26 percent blood-alcohol content. Both of these measurements are well over the .04 percent limit placed on commercial drivers.

Costello’s history of alcohol-related offenses goes back to May, 2008, when he was cited for drinking in public in Oceanside and then again a few days later in Escondido. A source also told KFMB-TV that Costello had other alcohol-related offenses that were no longer on his record because they had happened more than a decade ago.

In many cases, a DUI record prevents someone from being hired for a professional driving job.

The county hired Costello via First Transit, a private subcontractor that is in the process of taking over the bus operations in the district. A spokesperson from First Transit said that Costello had passed all of the necessary criminal background checks before he was hired.



Missouri DUI Laws Get Overhaul

By Topher

Missouri governor Jay Nixon recently signed drunk driving legislation that will attempt to guide DUI offenders into alcohol treatment programs, and to strengthen punishment for repeat offenders, the Columbia Missourian is reporting.

The legislation will take effect on August 28, and according to Nixon it will make roads safer and make the drunk driving laws across the state more uniform. In the final days of legislative session there was little dissent from fellow lawmakers over a bill that will make drastically change Missouri DUI laws.

“This should mean that fewer families will have to answer a knock at the door in the middle of the night and learn that a loved one’s life has been cut short by a drunk driver,” Nixon said of the legislation.

The legislation will require trials for anyone with two or more DUI convictions to go to state trial courts instead of local municipal courts.

It also puts in place the means for law enforcement to standardize reporting DUI offenses to a statewide database. Reporting is already a requirement, but the legislation will require compliance certification to apply for grants.

The bill will also push alcohol treatment for repeat offenders and for those whose blood-alcohol content measures two times the legal limit. Also, trial courts will, under the bill, be able to set up DUI courts that combine supervision, drug testing, monitoring and treatment – all paid for by offenders.

The current legal guidelines for DUI came under scrutiny recently when a report from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch showed that the state was having trouble keeping track of just how many prior offenses DUI-convicted motorists had on the books. There were also a large number of cases in which plea bargains kept cases off the books.

The new DUI legislation was created in response to the outcry that resulted from these reports.
Around 35,000 people were arrested for DUI in Missouri in 2009. There have been 9,000 DUI arrests already this year. Over a quarter of the fatal car accidents in the state in 2008 involved alcohol, as well as 5 percent of all motor vehicle accidents.

“It shows our Missouri citizens that we are moving in the right direction,” said Missouri for Mothers Against Drunk Driving victim services manager Phaedra Olsen of the legislation.



Florida DUI Laws May Change

By Topher

A big change could be in store for the DUI laws in Florida if the governor signs a new bill that recently passed the state legislature.

House Bill 971 is on Florida Governor Charlie Crist’s desk this week waiting for his signature or his veto. As the governor weighs the decision, outside groups continue to debate the merits of the law.

The question at hand is really whether HB 971 would make Floridians more safe, or whether it will simply put more intoxicated drivers on the road.

Currently, Florida law permanently revokes the licenses of drivers with four or more DUI convictions (note the word “conviction” – a DUI arrest on your record doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve been convicted of the crime).

The new bill would allow these drivers to reinstate their license if they passed stringent requirements, including the installation of an ignition interlock system.

An ignition interlock system is a small device that requires a driver to blow into a handheld alcohol sensor connected to the dashboard. The sensor tests the driver’s blood alcohol level. If the driver is under the influence, the device essentially “locks” the car, and will not allow it to start.

There are other conditions for license reinstatement as well:

  • No one convicted of DUI manslaughter convicted is eligible for the program
  • There is a ten-year waiting period between the previous DUI and the reinstatement of the license
  • The driver must not have driven on a suspended or revoked license during the waiting period
  • The driver must complete a DUI program within six months of the reinstatement
  • For the first year the driver must also drive only to commute to and from work

Critics of the bill have several complaints about the changes to a law they feel currently functions well. First they object to putting multiple DUI offenders back on the road.

Another criticism of the bill is that it could potentially provide big business to the two vendors Florida has chosen to supply interlock ignition systems to the state.

Ignition interlock systems are not cheap, and the full cost must be paid by DUI offender. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle state that total costs come to almost $250 for installation and an additional monthly maintenance fee of $67.50. That’s about $1,000 for one year of service.

Some groups, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving, support the proposed law. With their license already revoked, many drivers with multiple DUIs hit the roads anyway, feeling they have nothing left to lose, proponents of the law say.

The new law will provide an incentive for “good behavior” and, through the use of ignition interlock devices, keep a closer eye on drivers.

In the minds of the bill’s supporters, the close monitoring of former drunk drivers is better than not watching them at all and simply punishing them when they further break the law.

The DUI law changes are only a part of HB 971, which as a whole would impart much-needed changes to the Florida transportation system. The bill is expected to be signed into law.