There are many politicians arrested for drunk driving. The charge is usually driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI). But some states use different charges. For example, OUI (operating under the influence). Or OWI (operating while intoxicated). And even DWAI (driving while ability impaired).
The charges usually relate to alcohol. Yet it appears that the abuse of both legal and illegal drugs may be an even bigger problem. But estimates or measures of drugs are virtually non-existent.
Drunk and impaired driving is a serious problem.
Many people drive while impaired because they don’t know a simple fact. That standard drinks all have the same amount of pure alcohol. It’s 0.6 of an ounce. A drink is a drink. So having two beers is the same as having two shots of whiskey.
Drunk driving kills and injures thousands of people each year. Therefore, it’s especially important for elected officials to be good role models.
However, politicians arrested for drunk driving set a poor example. Yet it appears that voters tend not to vote their disapproval of this crime. Perhaps that’s because so many voters drive intoxicated themselves.
For example, police arrest over 1.5 million people annually for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. By the time men reach 40, they have a one-in-five chance of having been arrested for the charge.
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Cops vs. Politicians video.
Dozens of members of Congress each and every year escape DWI/DUI arrests by invoking their congressional privilege of immunity. That is Article one, Section 6 of the US Constitution. The privilege was originally provided over 200 years ago to protect members of Congress from politically-motivated arrests. For example, made in an effort to prevent then from voting or otherwise performing their official duties.
The privilege of immunity serves no useful purpose today and is an affront to law-abiding citizens. There are many pressures that could be applied to discourage it outrageous misuse.
For example, the use of the privilege by a senator or representative from a state could be used to lower that state’s score used by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) in calculating the state’s annual “grade.” However, the problem is being completely ignored by everyone, including MADD. So the travesty continues.
As a result of Congressional immunity, few members of that body are arrested for drunk driving.
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Politicians arrested for drunk driving appear under their branch of government. That is, by executive, legislative, or judicial branch
- Executive Branch
- Legislative Branch
- Judicial Branch
I. Executive Branch: Politicians Arrested for Drunk Driving
George W. Bush
When he was 30, police arrested George W. Bush for DUI. The future president pleaded guilty. He paid a fine of $150 fine and briefly had his driving suspended in Maine.
Later Bush chose not to drink any alcoholic beverages.
A court convicted future Vice-President Dick Cheney of DWI when he was 22.
The next year, it convicted him a second time. He paid fines and had a brief suspension of his license.
II. Legislative Branch: Politicians Arrested for Drunk Driving
Police arrested Kevin Brady, Texas member of the House of Representatives, for DUI in 2005.
A trooper arrested him when he was attending a homecoming weekend at his alma mater. It was in his hometown of Vermillion, SD. He pleaded no contest.
The court fined Brady $350 and suspended his right to drive in the state for 30 days. It also required him to pay $53 in court fees.
Subsequently, he beat his opponent for Congress by over two to one.
U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho pleaded guilty to DUI in 2013. The court ordered him to pay a fine of $250 and complete an alcohol safety course.
The state of Virginia, where Crapo committed the crime, suspended his driver’s license for a year.
Rep. Patrick Kennedy’s case is unique. In 2006, Capitol Police saw Kennedy’s car speeding in a construction zone and swerving into the wrong lane. It’s lights were off. Kennedy’s convertible then hit a curve and again swerved into the wrong lane. The officer driving had to take evasive maneuvers to avoid hitting Kennedy’s car.
The incident report showed that Kennedy appeared to have been drinking. However, officers were told not to give Kennedy a sobriety test. Then two sergeants drove him home.
Louis Cannon was head of the local police union chapter. He said he believes “because of who he [Kennedy] is, courtesies were extended… If it had been you or me, we would have left in handcuffs.” And, of course, would have been arrested for DUI.
“…we would have left in handcuffs.”
Rep. Kennedy said he had taken prescription drugs that made him disoriented and confused. If this is so, he was guilty of DUI from drugs. That’s as serious a crime as DUI from alcohol. And it carries the same penalties. So it’s clear that the lawmaker was guilty of DUI. The only question is whether it was from alcohol, medications, or a combination.
For this reason, Rep. Kennedy is included in this list of politicians arrested for drunk (DUI or DWI) driving.
Politicians arrested for drunk driving appear by state.
Police arrested State Sen. Lyman Hoffman in 2004. They responded to reports of erratic driving. Although there was no damage, his bumper had hit a house.
The senator used his Constitutional right to refuse a breathalyzer test. The court sentenced Hoffman to three days in jail. It also suspended his license for 90 days and fined him $1,500. In addition, it placed him on probation for one year.
Hoffman was an advocate of strict penalties for DUI.
In 2007, police arrested Rep. Trish Groe for DWI with a suspended license. Conviction would be a felony. This would cause her to give up her seat in the legislature. So a plea bargain reduced the charge to a misdemeanor.
The court convicted her her of DWI. Although this was her second DWI, the court sentenced her to only ten days in jail.
Voters were also very forgiving of this politician arrested for drunk driving. After all they re-elected her the next year.
State Sen. Roy Ashburn pleaded no contest to two counts of DWI. The court sentenced him to two days in jail and three years of probation. The state suspended his driver’s license and fined him nearly $2,000. It also required him to take a class for DUI offenders.
Police arrested Ben Hueso, a state senator, in 2014 for suspicion of DUI. Huesto was driving the wrong way on a one-way street.
He pleaded no contest to a “wet reckless” charge. That is a driving offense involving alcohol. However, courts generally don’t punish it with jail. The court fined Hueso $250, required three years probation, and a six-week alcohol program.
Livvy Floren was a representative in the state House. She crashed her car into a power pole in 2004.
Then police arrested her for DUI and unsafe movement.
Police arrested state Sen. Lee Constantine in 2004 for DUI. According to the police report, Constantine was going 57 mph in a 45 mph zone. The officer said his eyes were red and glassy and that he smelled of alcohol.
The senator failed a field sobriety test. Then he declined a breathalyzer test. Police charged him with DUI.
Earlier, in 1990, police arrested Constantine for DUI. He pleaded no contest.
The senator pushed for a bill that toughened the state’s DUI laws in 1998.
In 2004, police arrested Rep. David Graves and charged him with running a red light and DUI. And the next year police again arrested him for DUI.
However, Graves argued that he was immune from arrest. That’s because the state constitution grants immunity to legislators traveling to or from legislative sessions.
The purpose of the provision is to protect lawmakers from politically-motivated interference. (For example, the royal governor had a lawmaker arrested to keep him from voting.)
Therefore, police may not arrest legislators during sessions of the General Assembly. Nor may they arrest them during legislative committee meetings, nor while they are in transit. It does permit officers to arrest lawmakers for “treason, felony, or breach of the peace.”
However, the court held that Graves was leaving a private dinner for politicians. It was not an event for lawmakers when they arrested him for his second DUI.
During his second stop, Graves told the officer he had legislative immunity. Therefore, the officer didn’t arrest him. He only gave Graves a citation.
Graves resigned soon after publicity of his second DUI arrest and claim of legislative immunity. His is a good example of how politicians arrested for drunk driving should not act.
However, Graves did remain a supportive of “strict penalties for those convicted of driving under the influence.”
An officer arrested State Sen. Ben Harbin in 2007 after he crashed into a power pole. The officer detected a strong odor of alcohol on his breath. In addition, the officer said Harbin had slightly slurred speech and bloodshot glassy eyes.
After Harbin failed the field sobriety test, the officer arrested him. However, declined to submit to a test of his blood. Again, that is his Constitutional right.
Jon Riki Karamatsu
House vice speaker Jon Riki Karamatsu struck a concrete pillar in 2007. He had a BAC of 0.17. That is over twice the legal limit. Therefore, police arrested him for “excessive” drunken driving.
Karamatsu spent the night in jail. A friend bailed him out for $500.
This was Karamatsu’s first charge of drunken driving. However, police had cited him three times in the past for traffic violations.
Members of the House removed Karamatsu as vice speaker. He later resigned from the House.
In 2015 police again arrested Karamatsu for DUI. He was then deputy prosecutor in the Honolulu prosecutor’s office. Karamatsu resigned several days after his arrest.
The court found him guilty. As a result, it sentenced him to five days in jail and fine of $1,000.
In 2008, police arrested state Sen. Ron Menor for DUI. His BAC was 0.147% on a screening.
Menor pleaded no contest. The court sentenced him to two days in jail and a 90-day license suspension. It also sentenced him to $800 in fines and attendance in substance abuse classes.
When police arrested him, Menor had his 11-year-old son in the car. Therefore, the law required $500 of the fine and the mandatory jail time.
In spite of the sentence, Menor remained a strong supporter of strict DUI punishments. Menor is one of the politicians arrested for drunk driving who show strong principles.
In 2011, an officer arrested state Sen. John McGee for drunken driving and grand theft. While walking intoxicated, McGee saw an unlocked SUV with the keys inside. He drove the vehicle instead of continuing to walk. The Senator then drove it onto the front yard of a house.
Police said he made a number of strange statements. For example, that he was “on his way to the promised land.” And also that he might be driving to Jackpot, Nevada. The senator’s BAC was nearly double the legal limit.
McGee pleaded guilty to DUI. The court sentenced him to jail, where he served 39 days.
McGee resigned from the Senate after the conviction. He had served as chair of the majority caucus.
Police arrested Rep. Kevin Green for DUI in 2008. That arrest cost him the chance to become House minority leader. However, he kept his spot as House whip.
The incident report said officers found his parked car with the engine running just before 2 a.m. Green was passed out inside covered with vomit. Furthermore, it had a strong smell of alcohol.
Green’s BAC was 0.13. He reached a plea deal. Therefore, he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of impaired driving. The deal required him to take alcohol counseling. He also had to pay $1,360 in fees and court costs.
A state trooper arrested Sen. Johnny Nugent for DUI in 2002. A driver had reported someone driving erratically. Nugent said his BAC was 0.13%.
Sen. Nugent later said “I make no excuses.” He continued “I made an error in judgment of my limits and I apologize for it.”
Voters repeatedly re-elected Nugent. He retired from the Senate in 2014.
In 2002, a concerned trucker called 911 to report a car that was swerving dangerously. Subsequently, a state patrol officer arrested state Sen. Louis Blessin, Jr. The officer said that Blessing’s BAC was slightly over the legal limit.
Blessing had earlier worked on a law to increase penalties for repeat DUI offenders.
In 2009, while a member of the Kansas House of Representatives, Phil Hermanson had a traffic crash. The representative had been taking prescription drugs.
He pleaded no contest. The court found him guilty of DUI. It sentenced him to probation for one year. In addition, it ordered him to pay a $500 fine plus court costs.
A sheriff’s deputy saw a car going slowly and eratically. So he pulled it over. The driver was Senate majority leader Lana Oleen. The deputy reported that Oleen failed both a field sobriety test and a breathalyzer test.
The state automatically imposes two penalties for DUI. It suspends the license for 30 days. After the suspension ends, it restricts the license for 330 days.
During the restriction, drivers may only use their car traveling to and from work. Except that they may drive to and from alcohol traffic safety classes.
State Sen. Edward Pugh was backing his car in 2003 when he crashed it into another vehicle. Police then arrested Pugh for DUI.
The senator pleaded guilty. He entered a diversion agreement. According to the deal, the court would clean his offense from the record. This, however, only if he no other offense by the end of the year.
This was Pugh’s third DUI.
A police officer saw a car driving erratically and nearly hit two parked cars in 2001. He arrested the driver, state Sen. Joey Pendleton on a charge of DUI. Pendelton’s BAC was 0.20%. That’s two and one-half times the legal limit.
Pendleton entered an Alford plea. With this, a defendant does not admit guilt. Hower, the person acknowledges that the evidence could lead to a conviction.
The court found the senator guilty of DUI. It sentenced him to license revocation for 30 days and to attend alcohol counseling for 20 hours. It also imposed fines and court costs of $558.35.
The senator had voted in favor of lowering the legal BAC for driving. In addition he supported graduated penalties for DUI. That is, higher penalties for higher BAC levels.
Voters re-elected Pendleton after his conviction.
In 2006, state Sen. Jeffrey Kaelin sideswiped a van in a restaurant parking lot. Police said Kaelin had a BAC of 0.13% and arrested him for OUI. That is, for operating under the influence.
In a press conference, Kaelin apologized to the officer for statements he made before his arrest. In the incident report, the officer said Kaelin made sure he knew Kaelin was a senator. Kaelin said to the officer that law enforcement should focus on catching real criminals.
The court found him guilty of OUI. It sentenced him to a 90-day license suspension. In addition, he paid a fine of $600.
State Rep. Sean Flaherty crashed his car on the highway in 2010. As a result, police arrested him for OUI.
Flaherty pleaded guilty to the charge and apologized to his constituents. In spite of the apology, he lost his bid for re-election.
Kumar P. Barve
Del. Kumar P. Barve is a member of the Maryland House of Delegates. In 2007, he served as majority leader. That year he drove out through an enter-only lane of a parking lot. The officer also said he saw Barve cross the center line.
Subsequently, Barve failed seven of eight parts of a field sobriety test. A preliminary breathalyzer estimated his BAC as 0.10%. However, prosecutors can’t use this estimate in court. That’s because because breathalyzers are unreliable. Police arrested him for OUI and handcuffed him.
At the police station Barve used his Constitutional right to refuse the court-admissible breath test. Police charged him with driving while intoxicated and driving under the influence. Also with failure to obey a traffic device and failure to drive right of the center. The state temporarily suspended his driving license.
Barve pleaded guilty but the court didn’t impose any jail time. Instead, it sentenced him to probation. In addition, it suspension $800 of the $1,000 fine. Thus, he only paid $200.
Earlier, in 2003, Barve supported ‘‘John’s Law.” That is a more strict OUI law.
In 2012, Del. Don Dwyer was operating a boat that crashed into another vessel. That crash injured six other people, including three children. One was a child of five with a fractured skull. Dwyer admitted that he was guilty of OUI.
In 2016, An officer saw an unopened can of beer in Del. Rick Impallaria’s truck. He then waited for Impallaria to return. The officer watched him re-entered his truck, start the engine, and open the beer. Then the officer stopped him.
That officer found Impallaria’s BAC to be 0.07%. That’s below the national illegal limit. But Maryland law makes driving with a BAC between 0.04% and 0.08% illegal. Specifically it’s “driving while impaired.” (On the other hand, OUI is driving with a BAC of 0.08 or higher.) So he arrested the lawmaker for driving while impaired.
Impallaria requested a jury trial and the jury found him guilty. The judge sentenced him to 60 days in jail and 18 months probation.
Then he suspended 58 days of the jail time. Significantly that’s because of legal concerns surrounding the arrest.
In short, the officer clearly violated the law. The reason is that in Maryland driving while impaired is a secondary offense. In other words, police can only charge drivers with impaired driving if they commit another offense. For example, if an officer stopped them for speeding or for reckless driving.
But the officer clearly treated it as a primary offence. Thus, he violated the lawmaker’s rights.
Impallaria is a strong advocate of stricter drunken-driving laws. For example, he co-sponsored legislation to make drunk drivers pay punitive damages for injuries. Impallaria also raised concerns that speed cameras would make it harder to catch drunk drivers.
A state trooper noticed Rep. Brian S. Dempsey weaving between lanes in 2003. It was about 2:30 a.m.
The trooper pulled over the car. Dempsey used his Constitutional right to decline the breathalyzer test. Then the state suspended his license for 180 days.
Voters re-elected Dempsey the next year.
Nevertheless, between 1985 and 2000, police issued Dempsey eight citations for speeding and crashes.
Rep. Steve Adamini hit two stopped cars in 2004. Police said his BAC was 0.15. That’s almost twice the legal limit. Subsequently, police arrested Adamini for DUI.
Police again arrested him on the same charge in 2006.
Police arrested Rep. Kevin Green for DUI in 2008. That arrest cost him the chance to become House minority leader. However, he kept his spot as House whip.
The incident report said officers found his parked car with the engine running just before 2 a.m. Green was passed out inside covered with vomit that had a strong smell of alcohol.
Green’s BAC was 0.13%. He reached a plea deal. Therefore, he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of impaired driving. The deal required him to take alcohol counseling. He also had to pay $1,360 in fees and court costs.
An officer arrested Rep. John Kivela in 2015 for driving DUI. Another officer arrested him a second time in 2017.
At the second arrest he told the arresting officer “my life is over.” He said “Make sure my wife knows I love her — and my kids.” And while police were taking a blood sample, he again said his life was over. The next day, he took his life.
Incredibly, officials never put him on suicide watch to protect his life. Kivela’s is one of the saddest of stories about politicians arrested for drunk driving.
Several drivers phoned 911 in 2004 to report a car driven erratically. Police identified the car and pulled it over. The driver was state Rep. Paul Kujawski, a leader in the House.
Police charged Kujawski with drunken driving, moving violations, “open and gross lewdness,” and disorderly conduct. After police pulled him over, the lawmaker urinated in public. That is the reason for the charge of gross lewedness.
The court suspended Kujawski’s license for 45 days. It ordered him to undergo alcohol abuse treatment. Finally, it fined him $250 in court costs.
Before his arrest, Kujawski was running unopposed for re-election. But after that, two others entered the race. Both said the arrest played a role in their decisions. However, Kujawski won re-election.
Rep. David Law was speeding and weaving between lanes in 2005. An officer pulled him over and his BAC was 0.13%. Law posted a bond of $500.
Law pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of operating a motor vehicle while visibly impaired. The court sentenced him to six months of probation. It also fined him $986.
In 2008, Law decided not to run for re-election to the House. Instead, he ran for the post of County Prosecutor.
Officers arrested Rep. Virgil Smith in 2004 and again in 2006. Once it was for impaired driving. The other time it was for operating while intoxicated.
Then in 2010, Smith speeded quickly from a stop light. He reached an estimated speed of 55 mph in a 30 mph zone. Officers also saw him change lanes without signaling. After officers pulled him over, Smith had a screening BAC of 0.154%. However, hand-held breathalyzers have such low accuracy that their results aren’t admissible in court.
Prosecutors decided not to bring charges, citing inadequate evidence. Unfortunately, the now Sen. Smith’s ex-wife invaded his house. She found him there naked with another woman. He chased her out with a firearm and discharged many shots into her expensive car. This led to charges against Smith and he resigned from the Senate.
Police arrested Ron Stephens, a member of the state House of Representatives, for DUI. Police said he had a BAC of 0.101%.
Stephens pleaded guilty to the charge. Therefore, the court sentenced him to one year supervised probation. It required him to pay $1,410 fees and court costs and suspended his license for 30 days. Finally, it ordered him to abstain from alcohol for one year.
State Rep. Andy Dawkins pleaded guilty to drunken driving. The judge sentenced him to a $300 fine and a suspended 30-day jail term.
Dawkins heard about his DWI for years afterward. He said it had a lasting effect on his stature.
Nevertheless, he said, voters in his House district were “very forgiving.” In that regard, they re-elected him every two years. And they did so until he voluntarily retired from the Legislature.
An officer saw Sen. James Metzen‘s car weaving in its lane. The officer pulled the car over. Then he gave Metzen a field sobriety test. Next he tested his alcohol breath level. The BAC was 0.15%. That is nearly twice the legal limit.
Metzen was president of the Minnesota Senate. The arrest came about two hours after he had brought the 2007 session to a close. However, he continued in that role after his conviction.
At 1:30 a.m. on a Saturday in 2004, Rep. Tom Rukavina was driving erratically. For this reason, a sheriff’s deeputy stopped the car. The deputy gave Rukavina a field sobriety test and arrested him for DUI.
Rukavina agreed to an alcohol breath test at the jail. His BAC was 0.15%. He was cooperative throughout the entire process from initial stop through release. That, according to the sheriff’s office.
Rukavina later pleaded guilty to driving while impaired. The court imposed the maximum penalty. That was two years of probation in lieu of 90 days in jail. Plus a fine of $500 and a $70 surcharge.
Voters elected Yvonne Prettner Solon to her seat after her husband, Sen. Sam Solon died. Her husband pleaded guilty to drunken driving years before they were married.
The arrest was a wake-up call. Solon had a problem with alcohol. So he abstained from it for the rest of his life after the arrest.
Voters returned Solon to the Legislature. They did so every four years, even after the arrest, until he died.
In 2013, police arrested state Sen. John Horhn for DUI. The arresting officer, reported that Horhn yelled at him and threatened to have him fired. This is not how politicians arrested for drunk driving should act if they hope to be re-elected.
Horhn pleaded no contest. The judge placed him on non-adjudication status. Thus, the state could remove the charge from his record after probation.
The Highway Patrol arrested Rep.Tom Burcham for drunk driving. Then, less than five months later, police arrested him again on the same charge.
Subsequently, he withdrew from the forthcoming election.
After the second arrest, Burcham went into rehab for three months. He said that alchoholism ruined his political career.
Police arrested Rep. Mark Richardson for drunken driving and child endangerment. The latter charge was because the lawmaker had his 4-year-old daughter in the car.
Promptly, the next day Richardson gave up his House minority floor leadership role. Nonetheless, voters re-elected him to another term. Later, because of term limits, voters elected him as a Circuit Court judge.
In 2013, a sheriff’s deputy stopped state Senator Shannon Augare. The deputy reported that Augare ignored his request to turn off the vehicle. Augare claiming a lack of jurisdiction, and sped away. He pleaded not guilty to DUI, obstructing an officer, and reckless driving.
Nevertheless, the court ordered Augare to pay $1,250 in fines and to complete a substance-abuse treatment class. However, he spent no time in jail.
In 2013, police arrested Scott Lautenbaugh, a member of the Unicameral for DWI. Police found his BAC to be 0.234. That’s nearly three times the legal limit.
Lautenbaugh pleaded guilty to aggravated drunken driving. The court sentenced him to a $500 fine, two days of house arrest, and a one year probation. It also required him to use an ignition interlock device on his car for a year.
An officer charged Rep. Andy Dulin with a DUI in Ohio during 2018. Dulin exercised his Constitutional right to refuse a DUI test.
Dulin pleaded no contest. So the court imposed a fine of $530, probation for two years, and license suspension for one year.
A state Highway Patrol trooper arrested state Rep. Scot Kelsh for DUI in 2013.
Kelsh pleaded not guilty. However, the court found him guilty of the offense. Therefore, it sentenced the lawmaker to a year of unsupervised probation.
Prior to that, Kelsh had voted for stricter drunk driving laws.
State Sen. Jeff Rabon was in a three-car crash in 2007. The accident caused one person to go to the hospital with minor injuries. Police said Rabon’s BAC was 0.16%. That’s twice the legal limit. They arrested him for aggravated driving under the influence.
The year before the arrest, Rabon co-sponsored the Prevention of Youth to Access to Alcohol (3.2 beer) Act. It required stricter punishments for those who provide alcohol to anyone under age 21.
In 2010, police arrested the former senator for public drunkenness. It was his fourth alcohol-related run-in with the law.
He already had a DWI conviction before voters elected him senator.
Police arrested Rep. Joseph Brennan in 2011 for DUI. His BAC was 0.30. That’s almost four times the legal limit. The court sentenced him to a 30-day inpatient rehabilitation program and alcohol highway safety classes. It also sentenced him to 25 hours of community service and probation for six months.
Officers again arrested Brennan in 2012. This time for assaulting his wife and DUI. He pleaded guilty to both DUI and assault. The court sentenced him to 90 days jail and a fine of $1,500.
In 2011, police arrested Rep. Cherelle Parker for DUI. Officers said she was driving the wrong way and had a BAC twice the legal limit.
The court found her guilty. It sentenced her to three days in jail, a $1,000 fine and a driver’s license suspension for one year.
Parker attempted unsuccessfully to appeal her case to a higher court.
Police arrested Rep. Ted Vick in 2012. They charged him with DUI, speeding, and unlawfully carrying of gun. He used his Constitutional right to refuse a breathalyzer test.
Two days after his arrest, he announced he was ending his campaign for the U.S. Congress. In addition, he would not seek re-election to the South Carolina House. A court later dropped the charge.
The next year police again arrested Vick for DUI. However, the court dismissed that charge. That’s because police failed to read Vick his Miranda rights.
Officers arrested Rep. Curry Todd in 2011 for DUI. He pleaded guilty to DUI and having a gun while under the influence.
The court sentenced him to two days in jail, 24 hours of community service, and a $35 fine. For the gun, the court sentenced him to a year probation without the right to carry a gun.
Todd made a plea bargain. As a result, the court required him to have an ignition interlock device on his car. In addition, he had to take an alcohol safety course. Finally, he had to attend a victim impact panel.
The Shortly after midnight, officers arrested Sen. Gonzalo Barriento. They detected signs of intoxication. However, Barriento used his Constitutional right to decline a breathalyzer test.
The senator pleaded no contest. Then the judge sentenced him to a 90-day license suspension and 40 hours of community service. He also sentenced him to one year of probation, one year of counseling, and a $500 fine.
Voters re-elected Barrientod to the Senate the next year.
Police saw a car speeding in downtown Austin at night. So they pulled the car over. Rep. Harold Dutton was the driver. The incident report said he showed strong signs of intoxication.
Dutton declined to take a breathalyzer test or to submit a blood sample. Nevertheless, police arrested him on suspicion of OWI.
Police arrested Rep. Naomi Gonzalez for DUI in 2013. Officials reported that Gonzalez was in a traffic crash at 2 a.m.
Gonzalez pleading no contest. The court found her guilty and sentenced her to 15 days in jail.
In 2017, police arrested Rep. Victoria Neave for DWI after she crashed her car into a tree. Her BAC was nearly twice the legal limit. Police said that she refused to answer officers’ questions. Instead, she kept telling them over and over that she loved them and would fight for them.
The court found her guilty of DWI. It sentenced her to license suspension, probation for a year, and a fine. It also required Neave to submit to random alcohol tests. In addition, it required her to take a DWI education class and attend a victim impact panel.
A state trooper stopped Sen. Sheldon Killpack for erratic driving in 2010. The trooper smelled “a strong odor of alcohol.” Therefore, he asked the lawmaker to take a field sobriety test. The officer arrested Killpack when he exercised his Constitutional right to refuse. He spent about two hours in jail.
The next day Killpack resigned from the House. Other politicians arrested for drunk driving should follow Sen. Killpack’s example.
Police arrested Delegate Alex Shook of the state’s House of Delegates for DUI in 2010. A police officer said he pulled Skook over after seeing him driving the wrong way. Documents show his BAC as 0.177. That’s over twice the legal limit. He pleaded guilty and the the court fined him.
Just a few days earlier the lawmaker had introduced a bill to reduce DUI among drivers under 21.
In 2005, Sen. Russ Decker ran a red light. So police pulled him over. He failed parts of a field sobriety test. However, failing even a single part means failing the entire test. The senator’s BAC was 0.08
Decker had co-sponsored a bill to lower the drinking age for military personnel to 19. That would have treated the them as legal adults.
Police saw a car unsafely swerving in 2004. So they pulled the car over. The driver was Rep. Shirley Krug. She showed clear signs of intoxication so they arrested her for operating while intoxicated
Rep. Jeff Wood was a member of the state’s Assembly. He’s an extreme example of politicians arrested for drunk driving. While in office, police had arrested him three times for OWI of alcohol or prescription drugs. (OWI is operating while intoxicated.) And those three arrests were in just over one year. See a video of one arrest and a video of another..
Consequently, the Assembly ethics panel held a hearing in April of 2010. Woods admitted his guilt of drunken driving. However, he denied having been under the influence of the drugs. After that, he announced he wouldn’t run for re-election.
Wood reached a plea agreement with prosecutors. He pleaded guilty to all three OWIs of alcohol. In exchange, prosecution dropped the OWIs of drugs.
The court sentenced Wood to jail for 45 days and a fine of over $1,600. It also suspended his license for over four years. Afterwhich, it required him to have an ignition interlock in his car.
However, a few months later police arrested Wood for a fourth OWI. The court sentenced him to 60 days imprisonment. It also placed him on probation and fined him $1,500.
Then in December of the same year, police arrested Wood for drunken driving. He pleaded no contest. The court sentenced him to nine months in jail. Then he had three years probation.
By the way, police had earlier arrested Wood in 1990 and 1991.
III. Judicial Branch
Discover more at Judges Arrested for Drunk Driving.
IV. Summary: Politicians Arrested for Drunk Driving
Many politicians arrested for drunk driving experience the arrest at night. That’s because police make most arrests for impaired driving after midnight. That is because the proportion of people drinking is much, much higher at that time.
Especially after midnight police carefully watch for any sign of intoxication of drivers. Therefore they pay much more attention to subtle signs of impairment than at other times. And they do so especially on weekends and holidays.
Field Sobriety Tests
Many drivers agree to field sobriety tests. However, lawyers urge drivers to never, ever take one. They’re highly subjective and officers love them. So they try to talk drivers into taking them. For example, they may say the law requires it. Not so. In fact, no state requires.
Or they may say a driver can prove their innocence by taking one. However, drivers don’t need to prove their innocence. On the contrary. The burden of proof is on the state. In other words, it’s the state that has to prove the driver is guilty. To add insult to injury, officers don’t even consider passing the test as proof of innocence.
There are two important facts to understand. First is that officers investigating a possible impaired driving may legally lie to a driver. Second, many people with 0.00% BAC fail field sobriety tests..
In one study, volunteers took field sobriety tests in a building under ideal circumstances. First, they blew 0.00% BAC. Second they were volunteers. Third, they knew they had zero chance of arrest, jail, fines, etc. Yet in spite of this, 30% failed the test.
On the other hand, drivers pulled over after drinking are very nervous. Typically they take the test on uneven ground with cars going by closely, police lights flashing, often at night, etc. They also find it hard to concentrate. That in itself is a major problem. That is because concentration is essential to passing. Even with no or a very, very low BAC, their chance of failing are very high. In fact, it’s almost certain.
Voter Reactions to Politicians Arrested for Drunk Driving
Politicians arrested for drunk driving can have very different voter reactions. Voters re-elect some but not others. And many choose not to run again.
A number of factors may effect voter response.
- If the DUI caused injuries or deaths.
- The BAC level.
- Whether or not this is the politician’s first offence.
- How the politician acted during the investigation and arrest. Some politicians arrested for drunk driving are cooperative. On the other hand, some try to use their political position to intimidate officers.
- How the politician acted after the arrest. Most effective is a public apology and acceptance of responsibility. Furthermore, the politician must at least make it appear to be sincere.
- Effectiveness of politician in helping voters.
- The politician’s popularity.
- Voters’ general degree of acceptance or rejection of drinking in the community.
You can probably think of other factors effecting voter reactions to politicians arrested for drunk driving.
At this point, you know much more about politicians arrested for drunk driving than most people do. So congrats!
Do you know of any politicians arrested for drunk driving not listed here? If so, please notify hansondj (sign of at) potsdam (dot) edu/. And many thanks for your help!