Man arrested for 5th DWI; state works to stop repeat offenders

Chandler, Michael, accused of fifth DWI offense (APD Photo)
Chandler, Michael, accused of fifth DWI offense (APD Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Michael Chandler, 56, was arrested by Austin police April 29 on his fifth DWI charge after he caused a crash on I-35 involving three vehicles. His blood alcohol level was 0.262; the legal limit in Texas in 0.08.

A witness told officers, Chandler was seen driving a Ford F-150 southbound on I-35 weaving in and out of the shoulder and outside lane. Traveling behind Chandler, the witness called 911 fearing for the public’s safety, according to the affidavit.

Chandler, Michael, accused of fifth DWI offense (APD Photo)
Chandler, Michael, accused of fifth DWI offense (APD Photo)

While he was on the phone with 911 at 11:14 p.m., the witness said he saw Chandler hit the back of stopped trailer off to the side of the road. The trailer driver told officers he was checking to make sure the load he was hauling was secure when a Ford F-150 collided with the trailer.

The crash caused the Ford to spin out into the middle lanes colliding with a Red Kia. Both the driver and the passenger of the Kia said the Ford F-150 did not attempt to hit the brakes before the crash. Officers noted there were not visible skid marks near the crashes.

A law on the books since September in Texas aims to stop people from re-offending even a second time, by actually giving them the option to get back in the driver’s seat.

Some first time offenders can choose to continue driving with one condition: they install an ignition interlock device in their car.

“After having this installed we don’t really see clients come back for a second time, because they learn their lesson,” said Sefrino Frausto, a service technician at Smart Start.

Smart Start representatives say research shows the technology reduces recidivism, and has an even greater chance of changing an offender’s behavior when used with treatment and education.

Another deterrent for re-offending, the device gets expensive, costing users monthly.

“You don’t want to go through this, it’s not fun, it’s not worth it,” said Travis Chittum, a first-time DWI offender. “I was at a birthday party for my uncle, I had been drinking and I chose to drive, and I got in a wreck.”

Chittum has an at-home device, because he still does not have a car, but says he wouldn’t think twice to get a system for his car, if it meant having a license to drive.

“I would choose driving with an interlock so I could go to work, go to the grocery store get food, do things I want to do. Take care of priorities,” said Chittum.

In the affidavit, police noted Chandler was swaying, confused, crying and smelled of alcohol. Inside the Ford, officer found a 24 pack of Bud Light with numerous cans littered throughout the vehicle. Chandler admitted to drinking two beers around 5 p.m.

He faces a third degree felony for driving while intoxicated and is being held on a $50,000 bond.

According to Smart Start, the duration for which a person is suspended and can only operate vehicles with an ignition interlock is determined by the following:

1st offense: .08 BAC or greater: 90 days to one year

2nd offense: 180 days to two years

2nd or 3rd offense: one year to two years

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