A federal park ranger who arrested Bruce Springsteen after stopping the veteran rocker on the Jersey Shore reported that he “strongly” smelled of alcohol, had “glassy eyes” and was “visibly swaying back and forth” during a DWI field test.
Springsteen also refused a breath test following the Nov. 14 stop at the Gateway National Recreation Area near the Sandy Hook Lighthouse shortly after 4 p.m., Park Service Officer R.L. Hayes wrote on a trio of summonses.
“The Boss,” 71, reportedly was chatting with fans that sunny Saturday on the federally-owned, six-mile-long barrier split in Middletown between the Atlantic Ocean and Lower New York Bay.
Hayes said he saw Springsteen “consume a shot of Patron tequila and then get on his [Triumph] motorcycle and start the engine.”
He said he approached Springsteen and “informed him alcohol is prohibited at Sandy Hook,” while noticing that “the Patron bottle that the shot was poured out of was completely empty (750 ml),” according to the summonses on file in U.S. District Court in Newark.
The officer said he asked the veteran singer-songwriter if he was leaving and he “confirmed that he was going to drive out of the park.”
Springsteen “smelt strongly of alcohol coming off his person and had glassy eyes,” Hayes wrote.
He also “claimed that he had two shots of tequila in the last 20 minutes,” the summonses say.
The officer said he ran Springsteen through what are known as standardized fie!d sobriety tests, during which Hayes said he was “visibly swaying back and forth.”
Springsteen “took 45 total steps during the walk and turn [test] instead of the instructed 18,” the officer wrote.
He then “refused to provide a sample on the preliminary breath test” and was taken into custody.
Parks Service Police charged Springsteen with DWI, reckless driving and consuming alcohol in a closed area.
Careless vs. reckless
Federal park offenses are prosecuted by an assistant U.S. attorney before a U.S. District Court magistrate rather than to a jury. Defendants are sometimes, but not always, required to attend.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in the U.S., the hearings have been held via videoconference.
A video-conferenced first appearance before part-time federal Magistrate Judge Anthony R. Mautone in Newark was scheduled for Feb. 24. Representing Springsteen is Ocean County attorney Mitchell Ansell.
A news outlet reported being told by an unidentified source that Springsteen’s blood-alcohol level registered .02% -- a quarter of the federal legal limit.
Where that number came from is suspect.
Court papers on file in federal court in Newark don’t include any BAC figures. The summonses say that Springsteen refused to provide an initial breath sample but don't say whether there was any follow-up -- such as a blood sample -- after he was arrested.
Blood samples take some time to be processed.
Either way, the results of a breath or blood test alone don't always determine the outcome of such cases. A person can be convicted of misdemeanor DWI in a national park based on what an officer sees and smells during a field sobriety test.
A magistrate could find that the defendant was “operating or in physical control” of a motor vehicle “to a degree that renders them incapable of safe operation.”
That applies even if the driver registers a blood-alcohol level below .08 or is simply found sleeping in the back seat of his or her car.
The judge could impose a jail term of up to six months, a fine of up to $5,000 and probation for up to five years. More often than not, however, judges require alcohol evaluation and treatment and may even order community service or the use of an ignition lock.
A DWI can also be pleaded down to a lesser traffic offense, such as careless driving, which usually involves unknowingly committing a violation (a distracted lane change, for instance).
Reckless driving, on the other hand, means you should have reasonably known that your behavior could endanger the safety of others, or even yourself.
Reckless driving could, in the most extreme instances, bring imprisonment for up to 60 days and a license suspension. Or it could be pleaded down to careless driving.
Refusing to take a breath test brings its own set of penalties, including possible jail time, a license suspension and an ignition interlock requirement. Judges are less lenient with that charge.
Convictions for federal crimes remain on a person's record. The only way they can be expunged is through a pardon by the President of the United States.
Springsteen often spoke about and wrote in his autobiography that he frequented “the Hook” at the far northern end of the Jersey Shore below the Highlands -- a short drive down from the Freehold native’s 400-acre horse farm in Colts Neck -- with its historic lighthouse and views of lower Manhattan.
His representatives haven’t returned requests for comment.
The news first broke after Springsteen appeared in and narrated a Super Bowl commercial for Jeep in which he drives a 1980 CJ-5 through Lebanon, Kansas -- near America's geographic center -- while asking viewers to set aside political differences and move toward the political "middle."
"Fear has never been the best of who we are We just have to remember the very soil we stand on is common ground. So we can get there. We can make it to the mountaintop, through the desert . . . and we will cross this divide," he says.
The two-minute "To the ReUnited States of America" spot was the first for Springsteen since the "Born To Run" album brought him national acclaim more than 45 years ago.
The commercial drew praise from those seeking unity, anger from those who say they want him to just shut up and sing and cynicism from others.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.