Several celebrity songbirds appeared in the headlines recently for issues related to DUI arrests and DUI charges.
One is a Grammy winning songwriter, producer and actress best known for her soul-pop music, and the other is a one-time teen heartthrob slated to appear in a film about Liberace.
Singer and Grammy-winner Faith Evans pleaded no contest to DUI charges in a Los Angeles courtroom recently, following a DUI arrest back in August. The Grammy Award-winner was stopped at a DUI checkpoint in Marina del Rey on August 21 at around 10:40 p.m.
Evans was subsequently arrested for suspicion of misdemeanor drunk driving. As a part of the no contest plea, Evans will serve three years of probation, pay $300 in fines, agree not to drive with any alcohol in her system and undergo a 3-month alcohol treatment program, according to the Baltimore Sun.
She pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor count of reckless driving.
Evans, well-known after she arrived on the pop music scene in the mid-90s, tweeted to her fans following the DUI arrest, telling them that “After completing a full day of wardrobe prep I was stopped at a random checkpoint. I’m fine and well, and thank you for your prayers, kind words and concerns.” She signed the tweet “- Fizzy.”
Evans and her husband were arrested for drug possession charges in 2004, for which she entered a drug abuse treatment program.
Teen idol David Cassidy also faced DUI trouble recently, when he was arrested for drunk driving in Florida, according to the LA Times.
Cassidy has a court date in mid January for charges that he failed a field sobriety test at around 6 in the evening. Police reportedly witnessed Cassidy weaving on the road and making an erratic lane change.
A Breathalyzer test came back having registered a .141 and a .139 blood alcohol content for the singer and actor.
Cassidy pleaded not-guilty to the charge. He admitted that he was tired, and that he had a glass of wine with lunch and took a hydrocodine pill for back pain.
According to police, there was a bottle of bourbon in the back seat that was half empty.
Cassidy faces a misdemeanor charge of DUI, failure to maintain a single lane and driving with an open container.
Jim Leyritz once played in the most famous ballparks alongside baseball stars like Derek Jeter and Roger Clemens, but now he is on trial for DUI manslaughter after a tragic night left a mother dead.
The Florida DUI trial has most recently featured the testimony of a witness who testified that Leyritz ran his Ford Expedition through a red light and hit the SUV driven by Fredia Ann Veitch, killing her.
The witness, a bouncer at a bar in Ft. Lauderdale, claimed that Leyritz appeared to be trying to make it through the intersection before a yellow light turned red. He didn’t make it, said the accident witness, as reported by the New York Daily News.
The accident took place in December of 2007, at just after 3 in the morning. Henry also said that Veitch had the green light as she entered the intersection. “She didn’t have to stop because it was green,” he testified.
Henry was cross-examined regarding the timing of his witnessing of the accident, and he did offer that he looked up to see the incident only after he heard brakes screeching nearby.
Some evidence in the case, namely that there were no skid marks before the intersection, could shed some doubt on the timing claimed by Henry. There were screech marks on the road after the traffic lights, which may suggest that Henry did not see what the state of the traffic lights was at the time that he started viewing the incident.
According to the prosecution, Jim Leyritz had been out on the town, taking shots of vodka and tequila to celebrate his birthday when he took the wheel. His blood alcohol content was measured at .14 percent, which is almost double the legal BAC limit of .08.
Leyritz has pleaded not guilty to the DUI charge and to vehicular homicide. If he is convicted of the crime, he could face 15 years in prison.
In addition to Henry’s testimony, the prosecution has said that another witness, a passenger in Leyritz’s vehicle, would also testify that Leyritz ran the red light.
Other evidence in the trial includes testimony from witnesses who say that Leyritz did not appear intoxicated following the accident. One of those witnesses is a police detective.
Prosecutors will counter those accounts by asking jurors to look at police video of Leyritz’s field sobriety test.
“What you will see is a man who is being given instructions and can’t follow those instructions, even though he is not falling-down drunk,” prosecutor Stefanie Newman told the jury.
Leyritz had previously settled a civil suit with the family of the victim, though he did not admit any liability.
This week’s DUI stories feature a poor parenting decision, and an active night for a man charged with 3 DUIs in a single evening of driving.
Baby On Board
It is all too common in the world of DUI news to hear about a parent’s use of poor judgment. Not only do they allegedly drive drunk, but they do so with a child in the car with them.
In Fort Myers, Florida, Brittney Locke is charged with DUI and other crimes, after police say she was stopped on the interstate while driving under the influence, according to ABC 7.
According to police, Locke was stopped after witnesses called police, having witnessed an accident on the highway. The driver left the scene, witnesses said, and police found Locke parked along the side of the road near an exit, with metal sheared off the side of the car.
She also had an infant in the car with her, in a car seat.
Police noted that she appeared to have trouble keeping her eyes open, and said she didn’t know what she’d hit to cause the damage to her car. She failed a field sobriety test.
She claimed to be on the way to see the child’s father, to get money from him. She also told police she was exhausted, and that she had to be up early to visit an area methadone clinic as a part of addiction treatment.
Police allegedly found a Xanex tablet in the car, a prescription bottle of ibuprofen and a plastic straw that, according to ABC, “appeared to be coated with drug residue.”
A relative took control of the child. Locke is charged with DUI, DUI property damage for the guard rail she allegedly hit, child cruelty, drug possession and drug equipment possession.
A 3 DUI Charge Night
According to KGMI in Whatcom County, Washington, a man is facing 3 DUI charges after a single night of activity.
Tommy Ryser allegedly wrecked his pickup truck on the road, where police found it at around 8 p.m. on a Monday night. Then, police received a call that another accident had been reported.
It was a red VW Golf that had crashed into a guardrail.
Who pulled up to that accident site but Ryser, driving a tow truck. He had a cut on his face, according to police, and was found to be intoxicated.
According to KGMI, Ryser was arrested for and charged with crashing both disabled vehicles, and with driving drunk to the crash sites, in order to tow them back home.
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.
According to News 4 in Jacksonville, Fla., a Tampa man was arrested Wednesday, August 20 for DUI while in a school zone.
The police said that Michael Trotter Shaffer, 28, had a blood alcohol level of more than four times the legal limit.
Shaffer was arrested around 2pm after being pulled over by a deputy monitoring traffic in front of an elementary school.
The breath tests registered his blood alcohol level at .376 and .367. The officers charged Shaffer with a DUI, driving with license revoked-habitual offender, battery of a law enforcement officer and obstructing or opposing an officer.
An Ocala, Florida man was found not guilty of DUI manslaughter and DUI with property damage. The Ocala Star-Banner reports that David Andrew Ballinger had faced up to 31 years in prison and $20,000 in fines.
The Star-Banner earlier reported that the Florida Highway Patrol had responded, in January, to a single-vehicle crash. They found Robert Lewis Wilson pinned beneath the vehicle. Witnesses told investigators they had seen a man jump out of the truck and try to help Wilson, but that the man had run away.
Five hours after the crash, police went to Ballinger’s home and drew blood. His blood alcohol level was 0.05 percent, five hours after the crash.
A Florida Department of Law Enforcement toxicologist testified Ballinger’s BAC could have been above legal limit for DUI of 0.08 percent at the time of the crash. The Star-Banner’s article does not indicate whether Ballinger argued he had drank alcohol following the crash.
It appears that convincing juries that a driver was DUI when his measured BAC was below 0.08 percent is becoming increasing difficult.
Prosecutors in Hillsborough, Fla. have been forced to drop more than 60 of former sheriff’s Deputy Daniel Brock’s DUI arrests between October 2005 and October 2006.
Brock was fired after an internal review found he had arrested 58 people with a blood alcohol level (BAC) below the legal limit for DUI in Florida, often without evidence of suspicious driving actions, positive urine samples, or videos to back his arrests.
Brock had forced a particular DUI suspect to give a blood sample after a crash without serious injury. A blood draw is only allowed if authorities have evidence that someone sustained “serious bodily injury” in the crash.
The driver’s case was dropped without even filing charges.
A Florida driver, pulled over for DUI, faces felony charges of bribery.
Mark L. Tearney offered two Brevard County Sheriff’s deputies $500 to take a breath test in his place. He has been charged with two counts of bribery, along with a misdemeanor DUI offense and a citation for speeding in an enhanced penalty zone.
The officers were watching for speeders in a construction zone when they clocked an SUV doing 106 mph.
Allegedly, during field sobriety tests, Tearney said, “I know this is a stupid question, but what if I gave you each $500 to take the test for me.”
Tearney has two previous DUI arrests.
St Louis Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa was arrested for DUI in Jupiter Florida when he was found sleeping at a green light. This is just the latest celebrity DUI.
Police report that La Russa had been stopped for two green lights and vehicles were going around him to get through the intersection. He was found with his head on the wheel and his foot on the brake and did not immediately respond when a Jupiter police officer knocked on his windshield.
The 62-year old La Russa had a blood alcohol level (BAC) of 0.093 percent, just above Florida’s legal limit for DUI.
Marco Island Florida police report that the number of DUI arrests among seasonal residents is up this year. Marco Island police officers say that vacation mode drinking is getting people more drunk than they may even realize. Police Captain Thom Carr said officers have arrested vacationers for DUI with a blood alcohol content (BAC) over 0.25 percent, more than 3 times the legal limit for DUI in Florida, as early as 4pm in the afternoon. Vacationers tend to drink more than they would at home.
For those thinking of drinking and driving, Carr says it may be a more pleasant ride in the back of a cab than in the back of a police cruiser heading to jail.
A Jupiter Florida Police Department captain was suspended for failing to arrest the son and daughter of the town’s parks and recreation director for DUI after he had pulled them over on suspicion of DUI. The Jupiter Police Chief reprimanded the police captain for failing to follow DUI policy. He wrote in the official reprimand that the captain compromised his integrity when he allowed the two DUI suspects to escape arrest because of their relationship to a town official.
Another Jupiter police officer was under investigation, recently, for failing to arrest a fellow officer on DUI charges, claiming that the department was short of manpower that evening.
The Jupiter police chief reiterated that “our policy says that if a police officer suspects a person is operating a vehicle while under the influence, he must give a field sobriety test.” “It also says that if the individual is found to be under the influence, the officer will make the arrest. This is what should have happened.”
Again, this year, Palm Beach Florida police are offering options for drivers afraid of drinking and driving. Although the Palm Beach Police Department recommends relying on a designated driver during the holidays, they’re offering help to those who overindulge and don’t want to be picked up for DUI. The Department is continuing its long standing policy of giving rides to residents who may be DUI. Palm Beach provides the service throughout the year, but promotes it more during the holidays.
Residents would receive a ride directly to their homes. Guests who live outside the community also could benefit from the service. According to a police spokeswoman, Palm Beach police will help make other arrangements, such as contacting family members or local taxi companies.
The Florida legislature closed a loophole that caused hundreds of Florida DUI breathalyzer tests to be thrown out of court. The State outlawed the release of computer-software code used in every breath testing machine in the State. While Florida prosecutors are thrilled, how the State’s action affects DUI cases remains to be seen.
Over the past several months, hundreds of DUI cases in Florida have been lost, pled down or left hanging as prosecutors and defense attorneys argued over the source code for the Intoxilyzer 5000.
The battle caused such a snag in the legal system that the state legislature took action to prevent the issue from arising in future cases.
Today an appellate panel in Seminole County, where judges had rejected breathalyzer evidence in hundreds of cases, ruled that those judges were wrong.
Hundreds of Florida DUI cases have already been dismissed, tried or plea-bargained since the controversy arose, but those cases still pending are now free to move forward with the breathalyzer evidence.
The court ruling and legislative action seem to ensure that such arguments from DUI attorneys won’t be well received in the future.