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Drink, Drive, Repeat

June 10, 2008, 10:00 PM by Lou Raguse

Drink, Drive, Repeat
The Sioux Falls police department makes more than 1,800 drunk driving arrests each year. 

For many of those drunk drivers, it's not their first time being picked up. Yet, repeat offenders here rarely go to prison. Seven months ago we rode along with police and showed you three different DWI arrests. 

Each of them told officers they'd only had a few drinks. 

Officer Draeger: How much did you have to drink tonight? 
Driver: Umm, not that much. 
Officer Draeger: You okay to be driving tonight you think? 
Driver: Yeah. 

For each of them, that estimate proved to be quite conservative.

By now, these three men have all pleaded guilty in court to drunk driving, although the wheels of justice turn more slowly for some. 

Twenty-eight-year-old Adam Bucciarelli is the only suspect of the three to be sentenced so far. When police arrested him here for his third DUI. He was covered in his own blood, having just hit a parked car. On the alcohol breath test, Bucciarelli blew more twice the amount of alcohol in his system to legally drive. 

"He's drunker than snot, so I bet he's closer to a .2 or a .25. He was barely putting any air into it," Officer Bob Draeger said that night. 

When Drager drove him to the police station, Bucciarelli seemed to realize the seriousness of his crime. 

Bucciarelli: I'm screwed. 
Officer Draeger: It's not good. But at least nobody got hurt. 

But that didn't stop him. Less than a month after this video was shot and just 6 days after the story aired, Bucciarelli did it again. Sioux Falls police arrested him for DUI, for driving while under the influence of marijuana. 

Bucciarelli faced up to two years in prison for each DUI count, because once there's a third on your record, it's a felony. 

But when Bucciarelli had his day in court, with four DUIs under his belt, Judge Joseph Neiles decided not to send him to prison. The judge instead handed him two years of "intense" probation. 

But the result doesn't surprise Minnehaha County State's Attorney Dave Nelson. In this circuit, he says judges don't sentence felony drunk drivers to prison as often as in other parts of the state. 

"You don't go to prison in Minnehaha County for drunk driving third offense. In many cases, you don't go to prison for subsequent offenses," Nelson says.

"Typically that's over the objection of the state's attorney's office. We believe strongly that DWI is a crime of violence and needs to be treated as a crime of violence," Nelson says.

The second suspected drunk driver we featured in November, 22-year-old Alex Neugebauer, gave police a hard time when they pulled him over. 

Officer Olsen: Okay, I'm going to ask you one more time, step right there. 
Neugebauer: You said step right here, I'm right here. Is that better?
Officer Olsen: Perfect. 
Driver: What the [expletive removed] is this dude? This is not right, dude. 

They arrested him for his 3rd DUI. 

"Yeah, arrest me. That's cool," Neugebauer said. 

Although he was defiant while handcuffed, Neugebauer eventually pleaded guilty to his third offense in less in than three years — only with the agreement he too would not spend any time in prison. 

Even though the crime could earn him up to two years in the state penitentiary, when he's sentenced this summer Neugebauer faces at most, 180 days in the county jail. 

Our third featured suspect was 38-year-old Jerry Lynn Tryon, charged with his second DUI, who in the end, almost got away with drunk driving. 

He failed sobriety tests, like this one where he was supposed to count down to 53. 

"55, 54, 53, 53, 52, 51," Tryon counted.

He blew .152 on a breathalyzer and in a jail, his blood test showed his alcohol content even higher at .189. 

But in court, Tryon's lawyer asked the judge to throw out all the evidence, because she claimed the officer didn't have a right to stop him in the first place. 

The officer pulled Tryon over for driving with no headlights. But Magistrate Julie Irvine believed Tryon's lawyer who claimed the headlights were on, even though right on our video, you can clearly see they were off. 

"Which means all the evidence, the blood test, the field sobriety tests, and so on, were all suppressed. The state wouldn't be able to use any of that evidence," Nelson says.

Without the evidence thrown out, the prosecution would have no choice but to dismiss the case. 

But they decided to start the process of appealing the judge's decision. And after asking Irvine to reconsider, Tryon decided to plead guilty to a lesser DUI charge instead of chancing it, with the agreement prosecutors would ask for no more than a few days in jail. 

"We now have two DWIs on the defendant's record, so in the event he commits another offense, he can be charged with a felony offense," Nelson says.

A felony offense that carries the possibility of prison time. But as we showed you here, judges in Minnehaha County don't always hand down that sentence. 

Tryon is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday. Neugebauer will face a judge in July. 

Right now, we are also following the cases of two Sioux Falls men indicted last week on their 8th and 9th DUIs.

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