Category Archives: DWI

DUI Lawnmower

North Dakota Man Gets DUI on Lawnmower

A North Dakota man was arrested for driving under the influence on Sunday after authorities spotted him driving erratically on a lawnmower.

According to police documents, Earl Lee Jahner was operating the gas-powered lawn mower with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.27, more than three times the legal limit.

But Jahner’s troubles don’t stop there. According to authorities, Jahner was giving children a ride on the lawnmower with a six-pack of beer in tow when he was arrested. Police allege that Jahner damaged a corner of a building during his drunken joyride, and he was found to be in possession of marijuana. He was eventually charged with:

  • Felony driving under the influence
  • Driving with a suspended license
  • Possession of marijuana.

Not surprisingly, this wasn’t the first time Jahner had been booked for driving under the influence. A quick criminal history search reveals that he’s been convicted of DUI on nine previous occasions.

Minnesota Lawnmower Laws

Jahner would likely face a similar charge if the incident occurred in Minnesota. We’ve all heard stories of people getting DUIs on a John Deere because they needed to get somewhere and thought they could avoid a DUI as long as they didn’t drive a car, but DUI isn’t specific to cars. It can apply to any motor vehicle.

That said, the law is still open to interpretation. Not too long ago a Minnesota man had a DUI charge thrown out after he was arrested for being drunk while on a Segway. The court ruled that since the device was battery-powered and its primary use is on pedestrian paths or sidewalks that it could not be classified as a vehicle subject to DUI laws. One can argue that a lawnmower isn’t primarily used on the road, but many arrested for DUIs on lawnmowers are driving on or near a road, and the device has as engine, so your appeal will likely fall on deaf ears.

Related source: Pioneer Press

Michael Phelps DUI

Michael Phelps Arrested For Second DUI

Michael Phelps was arrested early Tuesday morning for driving under the influence, according to a report by TMZ.

Although details are minimal and an investigation is underway, TMZ has reported that the swimming star was stopped in his Land Rover at approximately 1:40 a.m. this morning. Authorities recently issued a report saying Phelps was initially stopped for driving 84 mph in a 45 mile per hour zone. Phelps’ mannerisms during the traffic stop led authorities to believe he was under the influence.

No official report has surfaced, but TMZ is citing an anonymous source claiming that Phelps failed a subsequent field sobriety test. They also claim that Phelps blew nearly double the legal limit on a Breathalyzer test.

Phelps was eventually charged with driving under the influence and driving at an excessive speed. He was released after being booked.

Second DUI

This wasn’t the first time the Olympic champion got behind the wheel after a night on the town. Phelps was arrested back in 2004 when he was 19 for driving under the influence.

In that case, Phelps struck a plea deal with prosecutors to avoid jail time. He was sentenced to 18 months of probation for his initial DUI, but there’s certainly a possibility he’ll head to the slammer for a second DUI.

Luckily for Phelps, his second DUI arrest comes 10 years after his first arrest. Under Maryland law, for a DUI to be considered a second offense, it must come within five years of the first violation. That said, the judge is unlikely to take it easy on Phelps since he’s already been booked for a DUI. Under Maryland law, Phelps faces the possibility of:

  • Up to one year in jail.
  • A fine of up to $1,000.
  • A six-month license suspension.
  • Extended probation.

We’ll keep tabs on the developing situation as more details emerge.

Related source: TMZ, ESPN

DUI Football players

DUI is the Most Common Crime Committed by NFL Players

A comprehensive look at the crimes committed by NFL players since 2000 reveals that drunk driving is the most commonly committed crime.

Last week we touched on the fact that your very own Minnesota Vikings have been the most arrested team since 2004, but now we’re taking a look at which crimes are most commonly committed. According to USA Today, more than a quarter of all NFL player arrests are for driving under the influence. 202 of the 713 reported arrests since 2000 have been for drunk driving.

Here are some more statistics from the USA Today database:

  • The second most common crime is assault and battery. 88 of the 713 arrests – 12.3 percent – have been for assault or battery.
  • Domestic violence crimes are the third most popular crime. 85 of the 713 arrests – 11.9 percent – were for situations of domestic violence.
  • Despite recent events, on average, only 1 in 40 players are arrested in a given year.
  • The arrest rate for NFL players is far lower than the national arrest rate for 25-29-year-old males.
  • 38 players have been arrested so far this year. 57 players were arrested in 2013.
  • 67 players were arrested in 2006, the most in a given year.

Vikings players hold the dubious distinction of being arrested the most since 2004. 44 players have been arrested since then, which is double the league average of 22 arrests since 2000.

Related source: NY Daily News, USA Today

NFL Arrests

Vikings Most Arrested Team in NFL

The Minnesota Vikings have been in the news lately, and for all the wrong reasons. First there was the controversy surrounding Adrian Peterson, and just yesterday we posted a blog about the most recent arrest of now-former Viking Jerome Simpson. So it should probably come as no surprise that an analysis of NFL arrests over the last 10 years revealed that the Minnesota Vikings are the most arrested team in the league.

The data compiled by the Dayton Business Journal found that the Vikings are tied with the Denver Broncos for the most arrests over the last 10 years, but it’s certainly possible that the list didn’t include Simpson’s arrest which came to light on Friday.

NFL Teams With The Most Arrests

Here’s the list of the 10 franchises that have had the most players arrested over the last decade.

1. Minnesota Vikings (32 arrests)

1. Denver Broncos (32 arrests)

3. Cincinnati Bengals (31 arrests)

4. Tennesse Titans (30 arrests)

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (26 arrests)

6. Jacksonville Jaguars (25 arrests)

7.  Chicago Bears (20 arrests)

7. Miami Dolphins (20 arrests)

9. Cleveland Browns (19 arrests)

9.  Indianapolis Colts (19 arrests)

9. San Diego Chargers (19 arrests)

9.  Seattle Seahawks (19 arrests)

According to the website, the worst year for the Vikings came in 2011 when seven players were arrested on a litany of charges. Over the past decade, Vikings players have been arrested for a slew of crimes, including child abuse, domestic abuse, driving under the influence, possession of marijuana and disorderly conduct.

Related source: Dayton Business Journal

Josh Gordon

Josh Gordon Pleads Guilty to DWI

Troubled Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon pleaded guilty to a DWI charge in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Tuesday. Gordon was originally arrested for driving while intoxicated over the July 4th holiday weekend.

Gordon will avoid jail as long as he follows through with the conditions put forth in his plea agreement, which include:

• 12 months of unsupervised probation

• $100 fine

• $290 in court costs

• Driver’s license suspension

Gordon also received a 60-day suspended sentence, meaning he’ll be forced to spend two months in jail if he violates his probation.

Further NFL Punishment?

The NFL has already suspended Gordon for the first 10 games of the season for a second failed drug test, and it’s possible that the league could impose an additional suspension. Gordon was originally suspended for the entire season, but he had his suspension reduced after the league and the NFL Players Association came to terms on a new drug policy that, without getting too into the details, lessens penalties for recreational or “party” drugs while taking a stronger stance on violent behavior and Human Growth Hormone testing.

The new policy would tack on an additional two games to Gordon’s suspension, but the deal has yet to be officially finalized, so it’s possible that his suspension will remain unchanged.

An NFL spokesperson declined to discuss further punishments for Gordon, saying, “We’ll decline to comment as we work through the revisions to the drug policy.”

Attorney Geoff Saltzstein, a lifelong Cleveland Browns fan, said he doesn’t believe Gordon will receive an additional suspension for his DWI.

“I think the league took into account all of Gordon’s off field issues when they reduced his suspension to 10 games,” Saltzstein said. “Some believed Gordon would have his suspension cut in half to eight games, so the reduction to 10 likely means the NFL took note of Gordon’s recent off field antics. I think his suspension will remain at 10 games.”

Related source: ESPN

Drugged Driving

Ex-Packer Lyerla Arrested For Drugged Driving

The Green Bay Packers usually avoid signing players with a history of run-ins with the law, but they made an exception when the signed former Oregon Ducks tight end Colt Lyerla as an undrafted free agent this offseason. Lyerla showed flashes of potential while at Oregon, but he left the program midway through the season after being arrested for attempting to flee police officers and possession of cocaine.

The Packers brought him into training camp, but a knee injury made him expendable and he was eventually released before the season began. Although he received a nice little six-figure injury settlement, it appears Lyerla couldn’t stay out of trouble off the field as he was arrested over the weekend for driving under the influence of intoxicants.

Although the full arrest report has yet to be released, The Oregonian reports that Lyerla was high on illegal drugs or medication at the time of his arrest. His first court appearance is scheduled for September 17.

Drugged Driving

Driving under the influence of drugs carries serious consequences. Had Lyerla been arrested in Minnesota, he would have faced misdemeanor charges of driving under the influence, which carries the following penalties:

  • Up to 90 days in jail.
  • Up to $1,000 fine.
  • Up to 180 days of license suspension.

Since Lyerla already has a “fleeing an officer” and drug possession arrest on his record, odds are the judge wouldn’t have felt the need to go easy on the young man. The fine would be of little impact to Lyerla, whose injury settlement paid him just south of $150,000, but jail time or a license suspension would act as a serious burden for a player who, at this point, would be lucky to get another look by an NFL team.

I expect that Lyerla will spend a few days in jail for this arrest, and I believe his NFL career is over. His talent on the field is not nearly good enough to outweigh the headcase that he is off the field. I hope he gets the help he needs to make the transition from BMOC to the real-world.

Related source: The Oregonian, ESPN

Minnesota DUI

Minnesota DUIs At Lowest Levels in 20 Years

The number of DUI arrests across the state of Minnesota fell to its lowest level since 20 years, and authorities say improved enforcement and shifting public perception of drinking and driving are the biggest reasons for the decline.

Minnesota police arrested 25,719 individuals for driving under the influence in 2013, and while that number still represents about 70 DUI arrests a day, that’s a huge improvement from just a few years ago when there were 41,951 such arrests in 2006. 19,036 Minnesotans received a criminal conviction, which also represents a 20-year low. Despite the downward trend, Minnesota State Patrol Lt. Eric Roeske said drunk driving is still a huge issue.

“It’s obviously a problem,” said Roeske. “Some don’t care about the consequences. Some struggle with chemical dependency and that contributes to the poor choice of getting behind the wheel when impaired.”

Crash data seems to confirm Roeske’s sentiments. 40 percent of Minnesotans involved in a fatal crash this year had previously been convicted of DUI, and 2,300 others were injured in alcohol-related crashes. See more statistics from the report below:

  • Minnesota experienced a two percent decline in drunken driving deaths in 2013.
  • Not surprisingly, drivers between the ages of 20-34 accounted for the majority of DUI arrests. That age group represented 55 percent of the total drunk driving arrests.
  • 4,034, or about one in six motorists arrested for DUI last year, had a BAC over 0.20.
  • 22 percent of residents in Mahnomen County have a DUI conviction, the highest rate in the state, while Stevens County boasts the lowest rate at 7.7 percent.

Why the Decline?

As we alluded to in the beginning of the post, improved enforcement and shifting public perception are two main reasons why DUI arrests have fallen over the past two decades, but Nancy Johnson, legislative liaison for Minnesotans for Safe Driving, said there are more factors at play.

“There’s been so much press and lots of enforcement just for impaired driving. I mean people really got the message. Less people are driving drunk,” said Johnson. “The cars are safer. [Emergency medical services] are faster. So some people who might have died in a crash 10 years ago might not now because they’ll be able to get to the hospital sooner.”

Legislators also credited the harsher penalties to repeat or serious offenders as a sign that some people are learning from their mistakes.

Here’s hoping 2014 is another record breaking year, but if something happens and you need to speak to an attorney, don’t hesitate to call Appelman Law Firm. We’re here to help.

Related source: Star Tribune

Jello Shot DUI

Jello Shot DUI Driver Gets Three Years in Prison

Back in June we wrote a blog post about Cathy Sanchez, a 28-year-old woman who was carrying three Jello shots in her pocket after police stopped her for driving under the influence. Yesterday, her case came to a close with a strict sentence.

Sanchez, now 29, was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of felony driving under the influence. That may seem harsh, but as we noted in the original story, this wasn’t Sanchez’s first arrest for drunk driving. She told the arresting officers she had been booked for DUI on five previous occasions, but a records search revealed she had three DWI convictions on her record.

On the night in question, Gyndon police stopped Sanchez after they noticed her serving on the highway at around 2 a.m. Officers reported that Sanchez smelled of alcohol and eventually asked her to take a field sobriety test, which she promptly failed. While they were searching her prior to her arrest, authorities pulled three Jello shots out of her pockets.

As we noted in the original story, Sanchez faced a minimum of 180 days in jail and a maximum of 10 years in prison. When looking at what she could have served, Sanchez is probably lucky to only be serving three years. Several other charges relating to the traffic stop were dropped in exchange for her guilty plea.

Sanchez, who has been in jail sentence her arrest, will get credit for three months and five days already served.

Related source: Pioneer Press

Minnesota State Fair

Crime at the Minnesota State Fair

The state fair opens today, and although the weather isn’t the greatest you can bet thousands of Minnesotans will head off to the Great Minnesota Get-Together after work. A state fair isn’t typically a place for criminal activity, but incidents certainly do occur.

Two years ago, two men were stabbed during a fight that broke out at the Minnesota State Fair, and there have been plenty of incidents at the Wisconsin State Fair over the past few years. Below, we share some ways to have fun and stay safe at the state fair.

Alcohol Intake – There are hundreds of different beers to choose from at the state fair this year, including Mini-Donut Beer, but you’ll want to avoid overindulging. Even if you have a safe ride home, being drunk and surrounded by thousands of people can be a recipe for disaster. Alcohol can turn a misunderstanding into a fistfight, so drink responsibly.

Safe Ride Home – If you sample enough brews to elevate your BAC above the legal limit, you’ll want to make sure you give your keys to a friend. Plan ahead so you know you have a sober driver before you get to the fair. Between cabs and free shuttles, there’s no reason why anyone should get a DUI after the state fair.

Eat Some Cookies – Simply put, it should be a crime to visit the state fair and not have at least one cookie from Sweet Martha’s Cookies. Grab a bucket and head over to the All You Can Drink Milk Stand to experience true bliss.

Lock Your Car Doors – To most people, locking their car doors is second nature, but make sure your doors are locked and windows rolled up before heading into the fair. If you traveled from outside the metro area and used a GPS to get there, store the unit in your glove box while you’re at the fair. The vast majority of the time nothing would happen if you left your doors unlocked, but a lot of thefts happen because of opportunity, not out of necessity. Maybe the thief has no real use for a GPS, but if you left it on your dashboard with the windows rolled halfway down to cool off your car, you’re basically inviting him to take it.

Avoid Certain Carnival Games – You know the game where you have to lob a softball into a tilted plastic bucket and keep it from falling out? This one? It’s rigged. Don’t play it. (Just kidding. We may just be bitter about our inability to win at this one.)

Most importantly, have fun at the Great Minnesota Get-Together this year!

Mike Vanwagner

Coon Rapids Driver Who Killed Teen Had 0.29 BAC

The Coon Rapids driver who hit and killed a Brooklyn Center teen was operating his vehicle with a blood-alcohol content of nearly four times the legal limit, prosecutors said during their opening statements Tuesday.

The case has drawn national media attention, but not because of Michael VanWagner’s abnormally high blood-alcohol or because he was driving without a valid license or insurance. Instead, people from all over the country are chiming in on the nonchalant attitude Vanwagner expressed on social media the days after the accident.

In Facebook posts that have since been taken down, VanWagner posted a photo of his totaled car with the text, “That’s the front end after I got done with her lol :)” In the comments on the photo, a friend asked what happened, and VanWagner replied, “Going into a turn lane and weird ass speed bump flew my left front driver front into a poll then flip and smashed the other side….. 252 and 83rd.” He later added, “I’m all good slept a day in the hospital then came home and did yard work lol.”

Mike VanWagner

The problem is the “weird ass speed bump” VanWagner hit was actually the rear end of a car driven by 16-year-old Jason McCarthy. According to an accident reconstruction team, VanWagner was traveling at roughly 60 mph when his car struck McCarthy’s car. Both cars were thrown into the air, and as fate would have it, McCarthy died in the accident while VanWagner walked away relatively unharmed.

Social Outrage

Although VanWagner wasn’t aware that he killed someone until a few days after the accident, he continued to share some questionable pictures in light of the events that transpired. He shared three captioned photos five days after the accident that depicted:

  • An officer asking a driver “Any drugs or alcohol?” The driver is shown saying, “No thanks, I’ve got everything.”
  • A picture of a woman driver captioned, “You call it ‘road rage,’ I call it ‘aggressively maneuvering around assholes that don’t know how to fucking drive.”
  • Two cars on the road with the caption, “If you tailgate me, I drive slower to piss you off…”

VanWagner has since made his Facebook profile private, but that hasn’t stopped folks from weighing in on other social media platforms. Some top comments from a Reddit post detailing the accident include:

  • “This is a total stranger that killed another total stranger, so this shouldn’t affect me too much. Yet, seeing the screenshot of his Facebook status and the utter disregard towards the fact that he hit and killed a teenager while driving drunk, fills me with a ridiculous amount of rage. I can’t even imagine the level of burning fury the parents must feel after hearing about this.” – Boo-Wendy-Boooo.
  • “Why would you ever brag about drunk driving? That’s like being proud of getting an STD from a one night stand. – gasstationclerk4life
  • “His Facebook isn’t going to do him any favors when he goes to trial for killing a kid.” – IamOfficial

VanWagner was officially charged with two counts Criminal Vehicular Homicide which each carry a maximum sentence of 10 years and/or a $20,000 fine, and one count of Failure to Stop for Accident to Property, which carries a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. He is currently being held without bail.

Related sources: Reddit, Star Tribune, CityPages