Category Archives: DWI

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

Drunk Family

DUI is a Family Affair for Father, Sons

Like father, like son appeared to be the motto for a Vermont family after a father and his two sons were all booked for driving under the influence on the same day.

The strange incident occurred on Saturday when police responded to a call about a single-vehicle crash. The driver, 22-year-old Josh Woodward, suffered only a few bumps and bruises during the accident, but after running his registration authorities noticed that he was operating with a criminally suspended license. During a short discussion with Woodward, officers began to suspect he had been driving under the influence. A subsequent breath test revealed that Woodward was operating the vehicle with a BAC more than three times the legal limit.

That was just the beginning of the bad day for the Woodward family. While authorities were talking to Josh, his 19-year-old brother arrived on scene to check on his brother’s condition. Police noted that Nick Woodward also appeared to be intoxicated, so they asked him to submit to a breathalyzer. Nick failed the test and was arrested and charged with DUI, which just so happens to be his second DUI arrest in the last two weeks.

Perhaps it was his paternal instinct, or maybe it was the booze talking, but before his son’s could be booked into custody, Brian Woodward arrived on scene and tried to move Nick’s car closer to the scene of the accident. Police ordered Brian to stop the vehicle, and they noted that he appeared to be visually and physically impaired. Like his sons before him, Brian submitted to a breathalyzer test. Just like his eldest son, Brian registered a BAC more than three times the legal limit. He was arrested and charged with DUI.

All three Woodwards will appear in court on their DUI charges over the course of the next month.

Related sourcE:

Bulldozer DUI

Rochester Man Gets DUI on Bulldozer

We’ve written about a bunch of strange DUI stories before, but a Rochester man has found another unique way to be arrested for driving under the influence.

Patrick James Sullivan was arrested on tentative charges of driving under the influence after driving a bulldozer into the Mississippi River.

According to the police report, Sullivan was moving sand on Dakota Island around 1:30am when his bulldozer became stuck in the mighty Mississippi. He told authorities he was working for a construction company hired for a bridge project in the area when he accidentally got his bulldozer stuck in the river.

A crane was eventually brought in to remove the bulldozer from the river, but authorities had some questions for the bulldozer operator. After a short conversation, authorities asked Sullivan to submit to a Breathalyzer test. Sullivan refused, but police felt they had enough evidence to book him on charges of first-degree DWI and refusal to take a breath test.

Authorities say Sullivan has had several run-ins with the law in the past. Winona County Chief Deputy Ron Ganrude said Sullivan has been arrested for DUI on seven previous occasions.

Other Odd DUIs

Although this is the first time we’ve heard of a bulldozer DUI, this is far from the strangest DUI case we’ve seen. Check out some of these crazy stories:

Related source: Pioneer Press

Violent Video Game Study

Study Claims Violent Video Games Increase Teen Crime Risk

A new US study suggests that teenagers who play violent video games are more likely to engage in criminal and risky behavior than those who avoid mature video games.

The study conducted by researchers at Dartmouth College tracked the video game and social habits of 5,000 randomly chosen teenagers over a four-year period. The three video games researchers specifically asked teens about were:

  • Manhunt
  • Spiderman

Researchers found that teens who admitted to playing certain violent videogames exhibited more unsafe tendencies, including smoking marijuana, consuming alcohol and committing crimes. The study also found that teens who played these games were more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior and drive recklessly,

“[The study] is important because it is the first to suggest that possible effects of violence videogames go well beyond violence to apply to substance use, risky driving and risk-taking sexual behavior,” said study co-author James Sargent.

Researchers say the uptick in risky activities may be due to the fact that the violent games are being played at an age where teens’ behaviors are very prone to influence.

“This [behavioral change] is due in part, to changes in the user’s personality, attitudes and values, specifically making them more rebellious and thrill-seeking,” the authors concluded.

Lacks Causation

While this study may serve as a reminder to parents to make good decisions when it comes to buying mature video games for their children, it falls short of proving that video games CAUSE children to become more criminal. It only states that they are more likely to engage in such activity.

For example, a 13-year-old who receives Grand Theft Auto V from their parents for Christmas may not be subjected to the same values as a child whose parents decide not to let them play the mature game. If one child can play a mature game and the other cannot, it stands to reason the same child may be able to stay out later than the other child. Again, although there is a lack of causation, I’m sure if we did a study of two groups of teens, one who had a 9:00pm curfew and the other had a midnight curfew, we’d find that the group who stays out later would engage in more risky behavior, mainly because there is ample opportunity to do so.

It’s very similar to the video game study. If parents are OK with their children playing mature video games, they may also be less concerned with their child’s after school habits or may be less aware of who their children are associating with. Again, this is not saying that all children who play mature video games have bad or uninvolved parents, it just stands to reason that if a child is allowed to regularly view this sort of behavior, they may feel that the risk of engaging in such behavior is less severe than teens who are not allowed to play such video games.

This study opens some interesting avenues for discussion, but it falls short of narrowing down causation. Until then, any number of factors could be cited for this increase in the likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors.

Related source: 3 News

Nick Fairley DUI

Lions’ Fairley Sentenced in DUI Case

Detroit Lions star defensive end Nick Fairley received a six-month suspended sentence for attempting to elude police officers during a traffic stop back in 2012.

Considering the joyride led to an arrest for driving under the influence and reckless driving, Fairley could have received a much harsher sentence. In all, Fairley was sentenced to:

  • $750 in fines.
  • Complete two driving classes by December 10.
  • A six-month suspended sentence if he fails to complete his probation or driving classes.

Fairley should consider himself lucky, especially since he didn’t appear to have the best legal counsel. Unbeknownst to Fairley, the presiding judge had ordered that he be present for sentencing. Fairley’s attorneys did not inform their client that he needed to be in court last Thursday, so he remained with the Lions at training camp.

Fairley’s attorneys asked for a delay in sentencing, and although the judge denied their request, District Court Judge George Hardesty also denied a motion from prosecutors to seek an arrest warrant for Fairley’s failure to appear in court. Attorneys Buzz Jordan and Sid Harrell apologized to the judge, saying they failed to read the judge’s initial order that required Fairley to attend his sentencing. The attorneys noted they incorrectly informed Fairley his presence was not necessary.

In the event that Fairley fails to complete his driving courses by December 10, he’ll be forced to serve his six-month suspended sentence. If the judge decided that Fairley would have to begin serving that sentence immediately, the first game he would miss would be against the Minnesota Vikings. It’s still uncertain if Fairley will face any additional discipline from the league office.

Fairley’s attorneys said they plan to appeal the sentencing decision.

Related source: Detroit Free Press

Super Extreme DUI

NBA Player Tucker Arrested for Super Extreme DUI

Phoenix Suns small forward P.J. Tucker was so drunk when he got behind the wheel of his Mercedes-Benz on May 10 that he earned a dubious distinction after getting pulled over by one of Arizona’s finest.

Tucker was arrested for a “super extreme DUI.”

Under Arizona law, super extreme DUI charges are brought against any person found operating a motor vehicle with a blood-alcohol content greater than 0.20. The legal limit is 0.08, so a super extreme DUI occurs when a person is driving with a BAC of at least 2.5x the legal limit.

That’s exactly what happened to Tucker back in May. According to the police report, an officer spotted Tucker rolling through stop signs near a popular nightlife destination in Scottsdale.

The arresting officer pulled Tucker over and noted that he exhibited “thick and slurred speech” and had “watery and bloodshot” eyes. He also wrote in his report that there was a “powerful” smell of alcohol emanating from the vehicle.

Tucker allegedly told the officer he only had one beer, but that appears to be a lie, unless his glass could hold 150 ounces of liquid. A preliminary breath test showed that Tucker was driving with a BAC of .201, and a subsequent breath test taken at the station registered a .222.

DUI, Extreme DUI, and Super Extreme DUI

Although Minnesota hasn’t adopted the moniker super extreme DUI, they hold 0.20 BAC as a threshold for increased punishment. Driving with a BAC greater than 0.20 is considered an aggravating factor, meaning your Fourth Degree DUI will become, at minimum, a Third Degree DUI, and if convicted, you’ll have to outfit your car with a Whiskey Plate.

As for Arizona, they have three levels of DUI. They are:

  • DUI (0.08 BAC or greater)
  • Extreme DUI (0.15 BAC or greater)
  • Super Extreme DUI (0.20 or greater)

A super extreme DUI carries a minimum 45-day jail sentence, unless the defendant installs an ignition interlock device or agrees to a form of house arrest.

Tucker was charged with a stop sign violation, and four degrees of DUI, including at least one charge of a DUI, extreme DUI, and super extreme DUI. Aside from criminal penalties, Tucker should expect a suspension from the NBA. Based on other player DUIs, Tucker is likely looking at a two-game suspension.

Drunk Parent

Parents, Not Strangers, Account For Majority of Child DUI Deaths

A study published in the journal Pediatrics found that children are more likely to be involved in a fatal alcohol-related car crash when an adult they know is driving under the influence, not when their sober adult is struck by a random drunk driver.

The study shows that parents and relatives are a greater threat to children than an unknown drunk driver. According to the statistics, of the 2,344 children under 15 who were killed in an auto accident involving a drunk driver, two-thirds of the children were riding in the car with the drunk driver themselves. Researchers also found:

  • Texas and California had the most deaths among kids riding with drunken drivers.
  • Nearly two-thirds of children who died while riding with a drunk driver were not wearing seat belts at the time of the accident.
  • More of the adult drunk drivers survived the crashes than the children, suggesting that more children could have survived if they had used a seat belt or child seat.
  • The numbers are very similar to a nearly identical study conducted between 1985-1996.

Researchers concluded their study by saying states should consider increasing the penalties for DUI with a child in the vehicle.

Minnesota DUI with Children in the Car

A typical first-time DUI where the individual blows under a .20 is considered a Fourth Degree DUI, which is a misdemeanor offense, but Minnesota casts stronger penalties on those who choose to drive drunk with children in the car. As the law currently stands, driving drunk with a child in the car is considered an aggravating factor under Minnesota law, as is a previous DUI conviction or blowing over a .20 BAC.

If you have one aggravating factor, your charge will automatically be upgraded to a Third Degree DUI, which is considered a gross misdemeanor.  That means you’re automatically facing a gross misdemeanor offense if you are caught driving under the influence with a child under the age of 16 in your car.

If you are found guilty of a Third Degree DUI in Minnesota you will face up to a year in jail and fines up to $3,000. The mandatory minimum fine is $900, and although there is no mandatory jail sentence, prosecutors routinely ask for some form of incarceration to send a message. Additionally, if you drive drunk and cause an accident that results in great bodily harm or death, you will face felony charges.

Make smart decisions, and never drink and drive, especially if you are responsible for the safety of young children.

Fatal DUI

St. Paul in Top 10 for Fewest Fatal DUIs Per Capita

A new study examining fatal alcohol-related car crashes in large metropolitan areas found that St. Paul, Minnesota, is in the Top 10 for fewest alcohol-related driving deaths per capita. Additionally, no Minnesota cities were named in the Top 25 cities with the most alcohol-related fatal car crashes.

The study published by examined car crash data from cities across the US from 2010-2012. To analyze how citizens in one state dealt with a DUI compared to those in another state, researchers also tracked:

  • Average car insurance premium
  • Average car insurance premium after a DUI
  • Total number of fatal alcohol-related car crashes
  • City population
  • Fatal alcohol-related crashes per capita

The Best and the Worst

California led the way in cities with the highest rate of alcohol-related deaths per capita, as two California cities cracked the Top 5 and four made their way into the Top 10. See the chart below for the cities with the highest rate of fatal alcohol-related car accidents per capita.

1. San Bernadino, CA

2. Mobile, AL

3. Riverside, CA

4. Tulsa, OK

5. Lubbock, TX

While California may hold the dubious distinction of having four cities in the Top 10 of the above list, they also claimed the top three spots on the list of cities with the fewest fatal alcohol-related car crashes. The five major cities with the fewest deaths are:

1. Moreno Valley, CA

2. Glendale, CA

3. Santa Rosa, CA

4. Arlington, VA

5. Aurora, IL

Although it didn’t crack the Top 5, St. Paul finished as the ninth best city for fewest fatal alcohol-related crashes.  Only 0.0140 residents per 1,000 perished in such an accident between 2010-2012.

Also, car insurance premiums in St. Paul didn’t spike very much compared to other states. Research shows that the average St. Paulian can expect their insurance to rise about 30 percent after a DUI. Conversely, residents in Durham, North Carolina, can expect their insurance to increase an average of 157 percent after a DUI.

For more information about the study, head on over to NerdWallet.

Texas Judge

Texas Judge Believes She’s Above DUI Laws

A Texas judge had a little too much fun this past weekend and attempted to use her position of authority to get out of a DUI charge.

According to authorities in McAllen, Texas, Judge Nora Longoria was stopped for an unspecified traffic violation in the wee hours of Saturday morning. Authorities approached the vehicle and asked Longoria to step out of the car and preform some routine field sobriety tests. During the test the responding officer noted the Longoria “had trouble with her balance and swayed from side to side and displayed red, glossy eyes.”

Instead of accepting responsibility for her poor decisions, Longoria attempted to pass the blame and use her position of power to influence the officer. Longoria complained that the officer was “ruining her life and career for what he was doing,” adding that she “worked hard for 25 years to be where I’m at today.”

Still in denial after failing the roadside tests, Longoria became enraged and “refused to be handcuffed,” authorities wrote in their report. She later refused to submit to a Breathalyzer test at the police station, but admitted to police that she drank five beers earlier that night. She eventually posted $2,000 bail and was released form custody.

Accepting Responsibility

This is just another classic example of someone in power attempting to use their position to remain above the law. We’ve blogged about it time and time again.

Ultimately nobody other than you is responsible for your decision to get behind a wheel after drinking excessively. It may sound harsh, especially from a firm that specializes in defending clients who receive a DUI, but it’s important that you accept this line of thought.

In the courtroom, the judge isn’t going to care if you “didn’t realize how much booze was in your drink,” or “you couldn’t leave your car overnight so you had to drive home.” No excuse like that is going to fly in the court of law. Instead, judges are much more likely to impose a lesser sentence if you own up to your actions. Obviously we’ll fight on your behalf if you were unlawfully stopped or the arresting officer violated your rights, but if you blow a .18 and hit a stop sign there’s not a whole lot we can do.

In these instances we often get proactive before trial. We ask our clients to seek treatment BEFORE the judge mandates it. This shows the court that our client is ready and willing to make positive life changes. It also shows that you accept responsibility for your actions. After all, someone who is in denial wouldn’t seek counseling because they don’t believe they are at fault.

In all, it really comes down to making smart decisions. If you make the poor decision to drink and drive, follow it up with a smart decision of accepting responsibility for your actions, and connect with a lawyer to determine the best course of action to beat your case or at least put you in a favorable light with the court.

Related source: CBS News