It’s never a smart idea to drink and drive. The decision can lead to property damage, injury and even death.
But some DUI criminals are even more notable – or notorious – for the actions they’ve taken after being charged or sentenced. Here’s a look at three drunk drivers whose bad decision-making didn’t end after they got off the road.
Laughing at your crime can get you time
In a recent DUI case, 18-year-old Paula Asher learned the hard way what could happen when she joked about her crime on Facebook.
After slamming her car into another car while drunk, Asher was charged in September 2012 with driving intoxicated while underage, possessing a controlled substance, and leaving the scene of an accident. Before being sentenced, however, she posted a message on Facebook that made light of the accident, saying: “My dumb (expletive) got a dui and I hit a car...lol.”
The parent of one of the teens in the other car saw her post and alerted police. Asher was ordered by a district judge to delete her Facebook account, but she refused. As a result, she was found in contempt of court and forced to spend two days in jail.
Driver sues dead victim
In some cases, a DUI accident isn’t a laughing matter — it’s grounds for a lawsuit against the people you hurt.
On Christmas Day in 2007, a driver slammed into a car stopped at a red light in Tampa, Fla. Three of the four people in the stopped car were killed. The driver had alcohol in his system; investigators estimated he was driving between 75 and 85 miles per hour on a city street.
The driver, David Belniak, pleaded guilty to three counts of DUI manslaughter and was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Now, however, he’s contesting the punishment. Belniak has proclaimed his innocence — and is suing the estate of the other driver for more than $15,000 in damages, suggesting the other driver was at fault. As of February 2013, the case was pending in court.
This lawsuit is the subject of much outrage from the family members of the victims, as well as the general public. It was voted “The Most Ridiculous Lawsuit of 2012” by visitors to FacesOfLawsuitAbuse.org. The website is run by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform, a group that advocates for legal reform to end such abuses of the legal system.
“The case received the highest number of votes out of all the stories we posted on our blog for the entire year,” says Justin Hakes, a spokesman for the Institute for Legal Reform. “Anytime you’re talking about life and death, when you have someone who commits a crime like this and admits they’re guilty of manslaughter, then turns around and sues the victim, it just makes your jaw hit the floor.”
Driver sues dead teen’s parents
In 2007, David Weaving of Connecticut, who has a history of DUI convictions, was driving around 83 miles per hour in a 45 mph zone when he hit 14-year-old bicyclist Matthew Kenney. The teen was killed.
Weaving was sentenced to 10 years in prison for vehicular manslaughter and was sued for $15,000 by the victim’s parents. Weaving then responded with a handwritten counterclaim seeking $15,000 in damages, blaming the parents for their son’s death because they didn’t force their son to wear a bicycle helmet. Because Weaving, already in prison, was below the federal poverty line, the court was responsible for paying his legal costs. As of February 2013, the case was working its way through the court system.
According to 2010 statistics from the National Crime Victim Bar Association, such situations are rare. The group found that 485 of the 12,000 criminal cases in its database involved perpetrators suing their own victims or the victims’ families.