Select Board Member’s DUI Case Continued

by Doug McClure

ST. JOHNSBURY – Hardwick Select Board Member Michael Deering’s court date for an April 9 arrest for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) #2 has again been delayed.

According to the Caledonia County Superior Court, the original date for April 26 had been postponed to May 24 because Deering had not been cited by the arresting officer when arrested. Deering asked for a continuance last week, which the judge granted. The judge did issue a finding of Probable Cause, which makes the affidavit public.

The charges in question are one count of DUI #2 – Influence, which alleges that Deering “operated, attempted to operate, or was in actual physical control of any motor vehicle on a public highway while under the influence of alcohol, having previously been convicted of violating 23 V.S.A. § 1201” with a possible penalty of “not more than two years or fined not more than $1,500 or both; and, at least 200 hours of community service shall be performed, or 60 consecutive hours of the sentence of imprisonment shall be serviced and may not be suspended or deferred or served as a supervised sentence.”

The second count is for DUI #2 over the legal limit of 0.08 with a prior conviction, with the same possible penalty. The affidavit notes “The Topps [sic] parking lot is a public highway open to flow and general circulation of motor vehicle traffic.”

Arresting officer Sergeant Darin Barber’s affidavit stated he was on duty at 4:45 p.m. when a citizen called about “a male, seated in a truck, in the Topps [sic] Grocery Store parking lot that appears to be ‘out of it.’ The caller advised he attempted to wake the male in the truck by knocking on it but received no response.”

Along with Officer Gagnon, Barber wrote that the officers found Deering “seated in the vehicle, in the driver’s seat … [appearing to be] asleep.” He wrote that he “went around the open driver’s side door. I looked at the male subject and noticed a bottle of liquor between his legs and that there was a key in the ignition. There was also an empty bottle of beer by the driver’s side tire.” Barber wrote that Deering said he had had his first drink at 11 a.m. and told Barber he had his last drink “when you saw me” but at the same time said he had not had a drink in the last 30 minutes, adding that medication could impact his sobriety.

Deering’s eyes were described as “watery.” Barber wrote he “smelled a strong odor of intoxicants” and “when the male looked at me, he moved the liquor bottle from between his legs to his right side.” Barber said Deering told him “a friend had died and he didn’t want to go home,” describing Deering as “talkative” as well as “polite and cooperative, but he was slurring his words when speaking.”

Barber wrote, “I asked him how much he had to drink and he handed me a half empty bottle of peppermint schnapps, the bottle that had originally been between his legs.” The affidavit described the bottle as a “pint.” According to the affidavit, when Deering exited the vehicle he “stumbled out” and “grabbed [the] doorframe.”

For medical reasons, Deering could not be administered tests involving his legs, but “he was swaying and unsteady on his feet.” Barber administered the vision tests for sobriety and found Deering met all six clues on that test. Deering “could not perform [a] ‘finger to nose’ test” because he “would not keep [his] head back.” A preliminary breath test registered a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.215%. 

Deering agreed to be transported to Hardwick Police Department (HPD) for additional testing and declined a public defender or lawyer. The infrared data master machine at HPD registered .233% BAC. Barber wrote that at that point HPD drove Deering to his residence.

Deering’s arraignment is now set for June 7, at 9 a.m., at the Caledonia County Superior Court in St. Johnsbury.