Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Good grief!

Man On Trial For Letting Friend Drive Drunk

A 40-year-old laborer is on trial in New Jersey in a groundbreaking case experts say could clear the way for the prosecution of anyone who lets a drunken driver get behind the wheel.

Kenneth Powell was asleep at home two years ago when police called and asked him to pick up best friend Michael Pangle, who had been arrested for drunken driving after a drinking session in a strip club.

Powell picked up Pangle and took his friend back to his sport utility vehicle, which was parked beside the road where he'd been arrested.

Pangle, 37, drove off into the night. Less than an hour later, his SUV collided with another car...
Pangle was killed, along with a man in the other vehicle. Pangle's blood-alcohol content (BAC) was 0.26, more than twice New Jersey's legal limit. Powell, the friend, is being held responsible and has been charged with both deaths; as a result, he faces a possible 15 years in prison.

I'm sorry, but flat-out this is ridiculous. Are state laws so different that this is possible? In California, if the police arrest a drunk driver (or even public intoxication) they are required to hold that person until sober, or is at least sober enough to take care of themself and not pose a danger to others. When you are arrested by the police they are responsible for your welfare, yet here they let him go.

The news story even contends that the police gave Powell the keys to the car as well as directions on how to find it. The case will apparently hinge on how obvious Pangle's intoxication was, which proves the point. How could the police release someone who is "obviously" intoxicated?

Amazing. Seems to me that the local prosecutor is doing his damnest to prevent people from seeing the obvious, that Pangle shouldn't have been released in the first place.

UPDATE: A question, actually. Of what relevance is it to this story to specify that Pangle's vehicle was an SUV?

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