This week in bad judgment brings two stories of stubborn and troubled drunk drivers. One decided not to yield to police while driving a lawnmower under the influence, and another decided to do his time with a buzz.
In Blountville, Tennessee, a man was arrested for drunk driving after he was pulled over while driving a lawnmower against traffic on a road near his house, according to the Kingsport Times-News.
According to police, Martin Junior McMurray ignored police sirens and loudspeaker commands from the cops for half a mile before he finally brought his vehicle to a halt.
At around 11 p.m., a deputy passed McMurray riding the lawnmower down the road. The deputy turned around and followed the mower, watching as McMurray veered across the road into the oncoming lane of traffic.
The deputy fired up his lights, but McMurray ignored them and continued on his way. The deputy even broadcast commands over the loudspeaker, to no avail.
A half mile later, McMurray finally pulled to a stop. The deputy reported that McMurray was unsteady while standing, and that he smelled like alcohol. McMurray admitted to having a few beers with dinner. The deputy then found an unopened can of brew in McMurray’s jacket pocket.
McMurray performed poorly on a field sobriety test, according to police, and they later found that McMurray’s driver’s license had been revoked. He was arrested and charged with driving under the influence, driving on a revoked license and being a habitual motor offender. His blood-alcohol content later registered at .15 percent. Most states, including Tennessee, can charge a person with DUI if they are operating any type of motor vehicle, including cars, lawnmowers, boats and motorcycles.
In a separate story, a man in Vermont didn’t wait for police to flag him down. He showed up drunk at the local prison to serve a two-day sentence for DUI.
Turns out, Timothy Carney had also driving himself to the prison while intoxicated. Prison officials called local police who performed the proper procedures before leveling DUI charges again, reports CBS news. He remained at the prison to serve out his first DUI penalty.
A Tennessee Governor’s task panel recommended scraping Tennessee’s DUI shame law after sheriffs, judges, and even anti-drunk driving advocates criticized the State’s practice of shaming drivers convicted of DUI. Tennessee’s current law requires judges to sentence first-time offenders to 24 hours in jail and 24 hours picking up trash on Tennessee’s roads wearing a protective vest stamped with “I am a Drunk Driver.” The shame law had been passed on the last day of 2005 legislative session and went into law without the Governor’s signature. Opponents of the law point to the high cost and difficulty in applying the law. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has said that shaming may actually lead to increased alcohol abuse.
Some Tennessee sheriffs and the law’s sponsor, however, are defending the law and even recommending returning to 48 hours in jail, on top of 24 hours of shame. Opponents of the law say they don’t want the law scrapped before hard data is collected regarding its effectiveness. They plan to introduce legislation saving the DUI shame law.
Tennessee law currently requires DUI offenders to wear a distinctive-colored vest with “I am a drunk driver” written on the back while picking up trash along roadways. Members of a state panel, studying the state’s DUI laws, said that the law is more counterproductive to the offender than productive. DUI offenders were previously required to serve 48 hours in jail. With the “shame law” in place that has been cut to 24 hours of jail time plus 24 hours of picking up garbage. “It’s not going to change whether or not he re-offends,” said a traffic safety resource prosecutor with the District Attorney General’s Conference. “It might just cause more bitterness, which is common with alcohol issues.”
Other recommended changes include prohibiting passengers from carrying open containers or consuming alcohol, lowering the threshold for a seven day jail sentence from 0.2 BAC to 0.15 BAC, and providing for ignition interlocks as part of a DUI offender’s penalty.
A truck driver employed by the Tennessee Highway Patrol showed up at the THP Knoxville Tennessee headquarters drunk. Troopers say he checked in with a receptionist and she noticed a strong odor of alcohol. She notified another trooper, who then asked the driver to perform several field sobriety tests. After failing these field tests, he was given a breath test indicating a BAC of 0.12.
The truck driver was hauled off to jail. A trooper called being in a police building, around police officers, in the trucker’s condition, “kind of ridiculous behavior.”