The Atlanta DUI News Blog

November 2010 Archives

We all know, or should know, that the legal limit for blood-alcohol concentration in Georgia (as in most states) is 0.08 percent. That's a constant percentage no matter who you are, even if alcohol affects different people in different ways.

But knowing your own limits, understanding the strength of a drink, paying attention to timing and gauging the amount of food in your stomach while drinking can go a long way toward keeping you safe on the road.

Police claim a video taken of 60-year-old David Cassidy, who starred in the 1970s television show "The Partridge Family," proves he was too impaired to drive, according to news outlet TCPalm.com. The former TV star and musician was arrested on suspicion of a DUI on Nov. 3 along the Florida Turnpike.

His 2008 Mercedes reportedly veered off and on the road numerous times and nearly hit another car at least once, prompting a Florida Highway Patrol officer to pull him over. The video, released by the Florida State Attorney's Office, shows David Cassidy seemingly having trouble concentrating and even interrupting the trooper (WPBF News).

The officer can be heard shouting, "Listen to me!" at one point in the video.

Georgia has the country's 13th-safest roads in the nation, according to a survey compiled by the Emergency Nurses Association, cited by WSB Radio News. The report, "2010 ENA National Scorecard on State Roadway Laws," applies a scoring system to state road safety laws, including those for DUI and texting while driving (PDF).

A total of 14 types of roadway safety legislation were scored, including for the first time distracted driving laws. ENA president-elect Ann Marie Papa told WSB why they added the category:

"Those are the laws that we are starting to see as an emergency department nurse. I see these young kids come in, just because they feel they need to put a yes or a no on a text message."

Police officers never know for sure and sometimes don't even suspect a motorist is drunk (called "reasonable suspicion") before pulling them over. DUI charges often come on the heels of a traffic stop for a burned-out brake light or speeding, for example.

Such was the case for an unnamed motorist stopped by a Bloomingdale officer as he was heading home to Duluth, as reported by the Savannah Morning News. The officer said he pulled the man over for driving too slow: 39 mph in a 70 mph zone.

Automotive club AAA launched a sober driving campaign ahead of the year's busiest travel period that encourages motorists to "Take the Pledge" to drive sober, WKBN in Ohio reported. The Thanksgiving holiday also is a time of heavier-than-usual alcohol consumption.

AAA's "Take the Pledge" campaign is similar to the "Contract for Life" sponsored by the organization Students Against Drunk Driving, in which a parent and child agree to not drink and drive and to help one another get a safe ride home.

Federal regulators told manufacturers last week that they have 15 days to pull caffeinated alcoholic drinks, the most popular being Four Loko, from shelves or at least remove the caffeine. But local officials already are taking action against the controversial drinks.

Although the Fulton County Commission doesn't have the authority to ban the drinks, they passed a resolution that would force distributors to post warnings near the drinks, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Lucas A. Bates of Clay County, Missouri was sentenced to life in prison plus 14 years after pleading guilty to second-degree murder, two counts of second-degree assault and flight to avoid arrest in connection with a DUI, the Kansas City Star reported.

Since he's only 30 years old, he'll likely have spent more time in prison than as a free man once he passes away. He was reportedly twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent blood-alcohol concentration at the time of his drunken collision that killed a teacher.

Former professional baseball player Jim Leyritz, who hit a key home run for the New York Yankees during the 1996 World Series, was acquitted of DUI manslaughter, according to the Associated Press. He was convicted on a misdemeanor DUI charge, however, which carries a maximum sentence of six months in jail.

He would have faced up to 15 years in state prison had he been convicted of the manslaughter charge. The key point in the trial was whether or not Jim Leyritz had run a red light on Dec. 28, 2007 before colliding with a car driven by 30-year-old Fredia Ann Veitch.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) formed in 1980, back when the legal intoxication limits in most states was rather high and those convicted of a DUI usually were just fined. A lot has changed in the 30 years since then.

And if MADD is able to deliver on its latest crusade, we may all be driving cars equipped with ignition interlock devices (IIDs), which lock a car’s ignition until the driver proves he or she is sober, according to The Dallas Morning News.

The ambitious effort is being met with stiff opposition, though, from critics who say it’s just too draconian and violates civil liberties. Others call the organization “neo-prohibitionist.”

A 5-year-old child sustained minor injuries and was taken to the hospital after an allegedly drunk motorist driving a pickup truck lost control and ran through the wall of an apartment building in Gwinnett County, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The incident happened at about 3 a.m. Friday morning while the child was asleep.

Two adults and two children were asleep in the apartment at Tuscana Apartments on Jerry Way, according to Gwinnett fire Captain Tommy Rutledge.

Sobriety Test... For Facebook?

Getting behind the wheel of an automobile after having one too many to drink can have deadly results, or at least may put you at risk of arrest. But updating your Facebook (or other social media) status while drunk can also produce plenty of morning-after regrets.

So how do you know when you’re too drunk to post? As the played-out saying goes, “there’s an app for that.” In fact there are several downloadable applications designed to determine whether you’re fit to run your mouth online, according to a New York Daily News article.

The Social Media Sobriety Test, for example, puts users through a battery of motor skills tests before the user is allowed to post on Facebook, Twitter or other social media sites.

Many people still don’t realize that a legally prescribed medication taken according to doctor’s orders can still trigger a DUI charge in all 50 states. A recent example is Tennessee woman Jody Lynn Cole, who was arrested for a DUI after taking a legally prescribed dose of the narcotic methadone, according to the Sparta Expositor.

As the name implies, driving under the influence can mean a variety of drugs that serve to impair a drivers’ ability to operate a vehicle. Although the term is most often applied to alcohol, it certainly is not limited in its scope. Methadone is usually prescribed to help those addicted to opiates wean themselves off. As with most narcotics, the drug causes lethargy and dullness of mind, not the desired conditions for a safe motorist.

DUI suspects being humiliated or at least outed, even before a conviction, is nothing new. Newspapers print the names and sometimes the addresses of DUI suspects all the time; so why is it any different to call them out on the popular social networking site Facebook?

The southern California city of Huntington Beach is considering just that, according to The Los Angeles Times. The idea was brought up at a City Council meeting and the Huntington Beach Police Dept. is now looking into it, Lt. Russell Reinhart told reporters. Councilman Devin Dwyer suggested using Facebook because the local newspaper stopped publishing the names of DUI suspects:

“I didn’t think public shaming for driving under the influence was such a bad idea. I would use any tool necessary to bring down the numbers of drunk drivers.”

A Laguna Beach motorist suspected of driving under the influence didn’t exactly help his case after crashing his car — twice — in front of police, The Orange Country Register reported. No one was hurt during the incident but a police cruiser and some equipment at the gas station where it occurred were damaged.

Officer Tony White suspected impaired driving as a car driven by Christian Aparicio pulled into the parking lot of a gas station last Saturday at 11:30 p.m. The cop stopped his car and walked over to the driver’s side door but Christian Aparicio apparently left the car in reverse before he climbed out.

Former New York Yankees slugger Jim Leyritz, who is currently on trial for a 2007 DUI charge in which a 30-year-old woman was killed, said he wasn’t drunk at the time, The New York Daily News reported. His defense attorney, David Bogenschutz, said his client’s blood-alcohol tests were “mishandled and unreliable.”

How so? According to the attorney, they were taken three hours after the incident and may have been skewed by a concussion Jim Leyritz suffered as a result of the crash.

The story of a fatal hit-and-run accident in Imperial Valley, California, is making national headlines as authorities continued to search for the culprit as of November 15, The Los Angeles Times reported. The driver, responsible for at least five deaths and four serious injuries, is thought to have been intoxicated at the time.

The 36-year-old Mexicali man who swerved into the bikers, Carlos Ramirez Bobadilla, was arrested on suspicion of being under the influence but was released after his blood test came back negative.

Denver Broncos defensive dynamo D.J. Williams was busted last Friday on suspicion of driving under the influence, CBS News reported. Although he is presumed innocent until proven guilty, as are all suspects, Broncos management wasted no time in fining and stripping D.J. Williams of his captain status.

Police stopped the linebacker early Friday morning after they saw him driving his car without headlights, according to Lynn Kimbrough, who works in the Denver District Attorney’s office:

“Once the stop was made, there was reasonable suspicion he was driving under the influence.”

The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office is one of just 21 law enforcement agencies in Georgia to be awarded a coveted H.E.A.T. grant for the enforcement of DUI laws, Access North Georgia reported.H.E.A.T. stands for Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic.

The Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (GOHS) awards H.E.A.T. grants to law enforcement agencies to help with the enforcement of impaired driving, seatbelt and speeding laws. Some of the proceeds of the grants are used for public education about the dangers of driving under the influence.

When a police officer gives you a second chance to get home safely and avoid getting arrested for drunk driving, it’s probably best not to push your luck. But that’s what 40-year-old Florida man Mark Roy Marshall did last Monday, according to the Naples News.

An astute employee of Miller’s Ale House called sheriff’s deputies at about midnight after Mark Marshall reportedly refused to leave the bar in a taxi. He attempted to drive home instead, the bar employee told police.

Sgt. Thomas Humann said he arrived at the bar’s parking lot to find Mark Marshall leaning up against a white pickup truck, presumably his vehicle. He eventually convinced the allegedly intoxicated man to take a taxi and even had his dispatchers call one for him.

Atlanta Progressive News (APN) reported that Fulton County Superior Court Judge candidate Kelly Amanda Lee was convicted of two separate DUIs, although she claimed she no longer drinks alcohol. The judicial candidate, who is in a run-off with candidate Shelitha Robertson, explained her past drunk driving cases in a questionnaire she completed last year:

"In 1990, I pleaded nolo contendre to a charge of driving under the influence while at the University of Georgia. In 2002, I pleaded guilty to a charge of driving under the influence in Fulton County."

She also admitted to paying fines for speeding tickets in 2005 and 2009, although they aren't receiving quite as much attention.

Utah resident Mike Tilt, who was riding his motorized bicycle on Oct. 28, was stopped by police on suspicion of being under the influence, CBS News reported. He suffers from cerebral palsy, epilepsy and other disabilities.

He was given a field sobriety test even though he told the officer he might fail because one leg is shorter than the other. When asked for his driver's license, he said he gave it up 15 years prior because he was having too many seizures; he assumed the motorized bike would be a safe alternative.

But it wasn't until the officer asked whether he takes medication for his epilepsy, which he said he did, that she handcuffed him. He said he asked if he was being arrested and she replied, "Yeah, for DUI."

Michael Scott Burdette, a 25-year-old man involved in a fatal DUI crash on May 26, 2008, pleaded guilty to two counts of vehicular homicide, according to The Moultrie Observer. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for January 24, where he faces a maximum 30 years in prison.

Superior Court Judge Harry J. Altman II ordered a pre-sentencing review before making his final decision. Michael Burdette entered what is known as a blind plea, which means there was no agreement with prosecutors for a more lenient sentence (which is commonly referred to as a plea bargain).

Yet another college football player has made the headlines, not for his actions on the field but for his very illegal actions off the fielde, the Arizona State Press reported. Arizona State University senior Trevor Hankins, the football team's punter, was arrested early Friday morning for driving under the influence and was suspended for last Saturday's game.

Trevor Hankins just happens to lead the Pac-10 division in punting average and is ranked third in the nation, so his absence (if it exceeds one game) likely will be felt.

People drink coffee and other energy drinks with no problems; and alcohol, though it has its share of problems, remains socially acceptable. So why all the fuss over "Four Loko" and other alcohol-laced energy drinks?

Critics insist that consuming these drinks can have the effect of masking one's true level of intoxication, according to an NPR story, leading some to consume dangerously high levels of alcohol. And some, led to believe they're sober because of the energy component, get behind the wheel after having too much.

What's more dangerous: Driving after downing six beers in a row or driving after staying awake for 24 hours? They're equally dangerous, according to data attributed to the National Sleep Foundation and cited by ABC News. Driving after 24 hours without sleep is equivalent to having a 0.10 percent blood-alcohol concentration, the average BAC after six drinks.

Researchers always knew drowsy driving was dangerous. But a new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety using federal crash data from 1999 to 2008 concluded that it's much more dangerous and more common than previously believed.

The DUI charge against professional basketball player Antoine Wright, a forward for the NBA's Sacramento Kings, is the latest in a string of legal problems for the team, the Sacramento Bee reported. A civilian contacted the California Highway Patrol about a possible drunk driver and followed Antoine Wright until a Rocklin officer was able to intervene.

The 26-year-old athlete apologized for the incident for "having gotten myself into this situation" but it's not clear whether he pleaded guilty or plans to defend against the DUI charge:

"I sincerely apologize to my teammates and coaches, the Sacramento Kings organization, the Sacramento community and my fans and my family."

Former professional football player Reggie Rogers was arrested last Friday on suspicion of driving under the influence and booked into Pierce County Jail in Washington state, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported. This being his sixth such arrest, the former Detroit Lions lineman is no stranger to DUI charges.

In fact, his career came to a screeching halt when he killed three teenagers while driving drunk in 1998. Most recently, Reggie Rogers was sentenced to two years in prison following his fourth and fifth DUIs in June of last year. He fled the scene after hitting another driver on Interstate 5 for his fifth offense.

Maybe he was tempting fate just a little too much. Nineteen-year-old Nebraska man Matthew Nieveen was busted for suspicion of driving under the influence after failing a breathalyzer test, according to the Lincoln Journal Star. Nothing unusual, except for the fact that he was dressed up as a breathalyzer for Halloween.

It was merely a costume, so he couldn't check himself before deciding to get behind the wheel. Police stopped him after witnessing his Ford F-150 pickup truck allegedly swerving, rapidly accelerating a few times and crossing the center line at least once.

Sheila Anne Hunter, a 50-year-old Marietta woman, was arrested and charged with driving under the influence after allegedly causing a wreck that left 36-year-old Vance Engle in critical condition, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Marietta police said both vehicles were traveling north on Cobb Parkway when Sheila Hunter's Honda Accord crossed the dividing line and struck Vance Engle's Ford truck, causing both vehicles to leave the roadway and flip. The truck struck a brick street sign, according to Officer Michael Gardner.

DUI charges can apply to those operating any moving vehicle, not just a car or motorcycle. Case in point: a man in Moultrie was arrested for a DUI on his motorized wheelchair, as reported in the Moultrie Observer. 

David Howard Popper, 49, was stopped by an officer who claims he did not have his front headlight on. Georgia law requires those using personal mobility vehicles to have a head light on if operating the vehicle at least 30 minutes after the sun sets.

Talk about wasting a second chance at life. A man from upstate New York named Gurninderjit Thandi was sentenced to four years in prison after injuring a pedestrian while driving under the influence, The Buffalo News reported.

But what makes this case remarkable is the fact that the 32-year-old received a liver transplant roughly two months prior to the incident. While he very well may have destroyed his first liver from drinking (although we don't know for sure), it's safe to assume his doctor probably advised against drinking so soon after the operation.

Three years after his then-underage daughter was arrested for a DUI, former teen idol and "Partridge Family" star David Cassidy has been charged with the same offense, the UK's Daily Mail and other news outlets reported. For those under the age of 20, "The Partridge Family" was a 1970s television show about a music group comprised of family members.

The 60-year-old former teen star, who still performs music, was arrested by a Florida police officer who said he was weaving as he drove on the Florida Turnpike late last week. David Cassidy was released from jail after posting $350 bail.

Gordon County sheriff's deputy Cameron B. Cartledge, just 27 years old, is in intensive care at Erlanger Medical Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee following a car crash, the Calhoun Times reported. Jose Gonzalez-Reyes, a 20-year-old Resaca resident, was charged with a DUI in causing the injury crash.

While the officer is expected to survive the incident, Chief Deputy Robert Paris indicated the injuries are very serious:

"He has a long recovery ahead of him."

People have been arrested for operating all manner of vehicles under the influence of alcohol, including horse-drawn wagons and motorized reclining chairs. Police in Albany are now investigating a suspected DUI involving a golf cart, as reported by NBC affiliate WALB. 

A Halloween block party attracting more than 300 revelers from the Doublegate neighborhood in Albany got a little too out of hand when Catherine Chandler struck Christal Potter, allegedly drunk. The victim sustained serious injuries to her leg and knee cap, requiring emergency surgery.

British researchers comparing a wide spectrum of drugs for their destructiveness to individuals and to society as a whole concluded that alcohol is the worst, according to an Associated Press article published by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In fact, they found that alcohol is more destructive than hard drugs such as heroin and even crack cocaine.

And yet, alcohol remains legal and socially acceptable in this country. The research was financed by the UK's Centre for Crime and Justice Studies.

Researchers evaluated the addictiveness of drugs, how they harm the human body, their social and economic costs and how they affect families. Heroin, crack cocaine and methamphetamine were found to be the most lethal to individuals.

Former New York Yankees player Jim Leyritz, notorious among Atlantans for hitting a decisive homerun against the Braves in the 1996 World Series, is now on trial for DUI manslaughter, ABC News reported. The charges are linked to a December 2007 incident in Florida that left 30-year-old mother Fredia Ann Veitch dead.

Police said he had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.14 percent following the crash, which is nearly twice Florida's legal limit of 0.08 percent.

Joe Hamilton, widely considered one of the greatest players in the history of Georgia Tech football, knows what it's like to start over after falling from grace. He resigned from his job with Georgia Tech two and a half years ago following his DUI arrest but was able to work his way onto the Georgia State University football staff, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

DUI charges, even before a trial or guilty plea, often have disastrous effects on one's career. Joe Hamilton's story illustrates the hard work and humility required to get back on top.

The 33-year-old, who played stints in the NFL and in arena football, was out with friends celebrating Cinco de Mayo just two weeks after starting his job with Georgia Tech. Having had too much, he drove to the campus and planned to spend the night in the coaching office.

Prison is not that unusual for repeat DUI offenders, especially those who cause another party's injury or death. But 59-year-old Texas man George Larry Harvey was sentenced to life in prison after his eighth conviction for drunk driving, according to the Houston Chronicle.

A heavy drinker since his teenage years, George Harvey already has served two prison terms for prior felony DWI (driving while intoxicated) convictions. He also was convicted of felony marijuana possession, which authorities said was a factor in his sentence.

Georgia DUI convict Chris Sandy has spent more than eight years in prison and will be on parole or probation for another 21 years, according to the Rome News-Tribune, so he knows more than anyone about the consequences of drinking and driving. Now he's sharing his story with students, military service members and churchgoers.

Chris Sandy drove drunk in April 2000 and killed an elderly couple on the outskirts of Atlanta. The victims, identified in the article as the Kings, were described as active members of the community:

"And now they're dead because of my choice, and that's something I'll have to live with for the rest of my life."

The only way to find out what it's like to drive a car while under the influence of alcohol is to, well, drive drunk. But students at Towson University near Baltimore had a rare opportunity to find out first hand without endangering anyone's life, according to campus newspaper The Towerlight.

How is that possible? Towson's Counseling Center invited the Save a Life Tour and its Driving Under the Influence Simulator, which mimics a real car and the driving experience. Students didn't actually binge drink before getting behind the wheel; the simulator can be set to mimic impairment, too.