Why Was Bruce Springsteen Busted for DWI? A Lawyer Explains.
Many fans are confounded by the November arrest after news that the rock legend was well below the legal limit.
When news broke in the week that Bruce Springsteen was arrested in November in New Jersey’s sprawling Gateway National Recreation Area for driving while intoxicated, reckless driving, and consuming alcohol during a closed area, it came as a surprise to fans of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame icon best known for the dramatic tension in his songs, but not in his offstage life.
Then on Thursday, further details from the incident were reportedly revealed in court papers, which noted that rather than the round of tequila the singer was imagined to have taken from a lover while asking for pictures within the park, during his arrest The Boss told a politician he had taken two shots during a 20-minute period. The officer also wrote that the rocker “smelt strongly of alcohol” and had “glassy eyes” which there was a bottle of Patron tequila that was “completely empty” at the scene. The report described Springsteen as “visibly swaying back and forth” during a field sobriety test and said he declined to supply a sample on an initial in-field breath test. Additionally, the report said Springsteen “took 45 total steps during the walk and switch rather than the instructed 18.”
What confounded many observers, though, was the detail that Springsteen reportedly blew a .02 on the breathalyzer test, which is one-quarter of his home state’s .08 legal limit for driving while intoxicated. To clarify the seeming discrepancy, Billboard reached bent a veteran New Jersey attorney who has defended nearly 1,000 DUI/DWI cases within the New Jersey .
According to James Seplowitz, partner at Foy & Seplowitz — who has no first-hand knowledge of the Springsteen case but was speaking generally terms about DWI case law in New Jersey — one thing that made the incident unique is that unlike other states, unless there was an injury or fatality, a DWI is usually a automobile offense, not a criminal offense in Jersey. That quirk leads to the driving force being taken into custody, but no official arrest record because no fingerprints are taken.
From the reports that have emerged, the officer allegedly observed Springsteen consuming what seemed to be alcohol within the park then beginning his motorcycle, which Seplowitz says could have given them suspicion that he was preparing to work a vehicle while intoxicated. That alone, he would argue, isn’t evidence for arrest, but arguably gave the officer a reason to prevent the singer albeit he hadn’t yet committed a clear automobile infraction.
“It might appear as if an attempt of tequila, but who knows what it was? it’d are an attempt of Gatorade,” Seplowitz says. The alleged glassy eyes and smell of alcohol on Springsteen’s breath are typical of DWI cases that the attorney defends, with Seplowitz noting that it’s possible the singer was tired from an extended day or could are affected by allergies or any number of other factors that might cause bloodshot or watery eyes. That observation alone isn’t enough to arrest someone, but combined with other factors cited within the court report, it’d rise to rock bottom level of proof needed — “reasonable suspicion” — at which point the officer is entitled to invite a field sobriety or coordination test.
The battery of three standardized tests from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, if administered properly, are meant to point out that an individual is under the influence. The tests are: horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), which tracks a subject’s eye movement; the walk-and-turn test, during which they’re instructed to require nine heel-to-toe progress and backwards in an effort to measure their ability to retain balance; and therefore the one-leg stand test, during which the topic must hold one foot 6 inches off the bottom and count by one-thousands until told to place their foot down.
In Seplowitz’s experience, most of the people , impaired or not, have trouble with the second and third tests, and for people that are 65 or older — Springsteen is 71 — NHTSA recommends that those tests are unreliable because at that age balance won’t be an accurate thanks to gauge whether you have been drinking. “Why are you making a man who’s 71 stand on one leg?” he asks, noting that if Springsteen wasn’t ready to call out the acceptable amount of steps requested which may have something to try to to together with his “divided attention skills” and be a sign to the officer that he was impaired.
Seplowitz notes that in “well over 50%” of cases he’s seen when he watches the video of the eye-movement test, it’s clear the officer didn’t administer it properly; at press time it had been unclear if the officer recorded the arrest or the tests or if any footage of them exists, and a spokesperson for the park Service had not returned requests for comment. If there’s video, he says, that might be crucial to determining if the instructions and tests were administered properly and the way Springsteen performed.
As for the reports that the singer blew a .02, Seplowitz says in his experience, that’s according to having round of alcohol, which might mean Springsteen wasn’t legally under the influence. There are two ways to prove guilt in these cases: One is “per se,” which shows through a breath test that the person had a blood-alcohol level of .08 or above, or by “observations prompts,” which incorporates the officer’s observation and subject’s performance on the sector sobriety tests. The officer, however, must prove it beyond an inexpensive doubt, which Seplowitz says may be a much higher standard than the evidence or reasonable suspicion standards to form the arrest. “If he blew an .02, quite frankly he shouldn’t have even been charged,” says Seplowitz.
The one wrinkle he notes, though, is that the officer features a lot of discretion, and albeit the blood-alcohol level is as low as .02, they could have observed that it affected the person such a lot that they failed the tests and were driving erratically enough to warrant an arrest. Most prosecutors, though, wouldn’t want to pursue a case where the reading was thus far below the legal threshold, he says. the very fact that the officer allegedly observed the drinking — which is rare in Seplowitz’s experience — but didn’t see Springsteen driving erratically might give the defense a really good argument that it had been an unlawful stop without enough reasonable suspicion which any evidence produced afterwards is so-called “fruit of the poisonous tree,” a possible violation of Springsteen’s Fourth Amendment rights.
According to the report, it doesn’t appear that Springsteen actually began driving his motorcycle after allegedly taking the shots, though Seplowitz notes that in New Jersey, operation of a vehicle is extremely broadly defined. “If you’re on top of things of the automobile and you’re meaning to drive it, that’s considered operation,” he says.
The one question anyone who has faced a DWI always asks is “am I in trouble if I refuse an in-field breathalyzer test?” during this case, consistent with the report, Springsteen did just that, and Seplowitz explains that in New Jersey a transportable breath tests on the scene isn’t admissible in court, but rather wont to establish evidence and can’t end in its own separate charge. However, if after your arrest you refuse the breath test at the police headquarters , you’ll get hit with a charge of “refusal.”
Springsteen appears to possess taken the test at the station, which Seplowitz says is run twice, with the samples compared to form sure they’re within the acceptable range then the lower figure standing because the official result. within the wake of the report, an excellent Bowl Jeep ad featuring Springsteen’s voice-over was faraway from YouTube. The singer is reportedly due in court within the next few weeks in reference to the stop.
A rep for Springsteen hadn’t skilled Billboard’s request for comment by press time.