The Bruce Springsteen DWI Story Is A Weird One

Illustration for article titled The Bruce Springsteen DWI Story Is A Weird One
Screenshot: Jeep

Bruce Springsteen, who is a musician, was arrested for DWI in November of last year, news which only came out this week and prompted Jeep to pull its Super Bowl ad featuring The Boss. This would seem to be a pretty cut-and-dry story except that it’s not.


Take, for example, the Asbury Park Press’s report from yesterday that Springsteen’s blood-alcohol content was 0.02, which is far below New Jersey’s 0.08 limit.

New Jersey rock icon Bruce Springsteen’s blood-alcohol content was 0.02 — just a quarter of New Jersey’s legal limit — when he was arrested on Sandy Hook in November and charged with driving while intoxicated, a source familiar with the case told the Asbury Park Press.

The legal threshold indicating intoxication for driving purposes in New Jersey is .08, which calls into question why Springsteen was even charged with driving while intoxicated, the source said.

Which was kind of huh, and then the “violation notice” was released yesterday, and it was more “huh.” Here is the complete statement from the arresting officer. Springsteen was stopped on a red and silver Triumph.

While on foot patrol, I observed a male (Bruce F. SPRINGSTEEN) consume a shot of Patron tequila and then get on his motorcycle and start the engine. I contacted SPRINGSTEEN and informed him alcohol is prohibited at Sandy Hook. The Patron bottle that the shot was poured out of was completely empty (750 mL). I asked SPRINGSTEEN if he was leaving and he confirmed that he was going to drive out of the park. SPRINGSTEEN claimed that he had had two shots of tequila in the last 20 minutes. SPRINGSTEEN smelt strongly of alcohol coming off his person and had glassy eyes. I ran SPRINGSTEEN through standardized field sobriety tests. I observed four out of six clues on the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. SPRINGSTEEN was visibly swaying back and forth while I observed his eyes. I observed five out of eight clues on the walk and turn test. SPRINGSTEEN took 45 total steps during the walk and turn instead of the instructed 18. SPRINGSTEEN refused to provide a sample on the preliminary breath test.

That all sounds sort of damning! Except then you remember that 0.02 figure, which, if true, must have come from a later test. The New York Times also talked to a lawyer who, in my mind, gave the most likely explanation of what went down:

Even if a blood-alcohol level is below the legal limit, it is not uncommon for a person to be charged with drunken driving based an officer’s observation during a three-part sobriety test, according to Carmine R. Villani, a New Jersey criminal defense lawyer with 30 years of experience with D.W.I. cases.

“Everything is done as a totality,” said Mr. Villani, who is not involved in Mr. Springsteen’s case. “He maybe had alcohol on his breath. Then he doesn’t maybe pass every aspect of the test. It’s designed to kind of mess people up. It’s a divided attention test. It’s a stressful event, and often people don’t do well on them.”

But if the blood-alcohol level is ultimately found to be well below 0.08 percent, the cases are often easily resolved, Mr. Villani said.

“With a .02 it shouldn’t move the heart — you wouldn’t be nervous,” he said. “On an .02 the science just isn’t there. Someone is just not impaired.”


This all stemmed from Springsteen stopping to talk with a fan, according to the New York Times, and I can now better understand why Springsteen went ahead with the Jeep ad and seemingly life as normal if people had assured him that registering a 0.02 wouldn’t present much of an issue.

It goes without saying that taking a shot of tequila (or two) before riding your motorcycle is not optimal, nor is drinking on federal property where drinking is not allowed, but above all this story is just very Bruce Springsteen. Tramps like us, baby we were born to run.


News Editor at Jalopnik. 2008 Honda Fit Sport.



As a criminal defense attorney, allow me to state first and foremost that the vast majority of police officers are trained pathological liars and that if one of them tells you so much as the time or the color of the sky you should first mistrust and then verify.

With that out of the way...

1. We can discount entirely the claims of glassy eyes, strong smell of alcohol, and Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus because they won’t show up on video and are therefore almost certainly lies.

2. Unless the video shows abnormal swaying (and the ‘acceptable range’ is two inches in any direction from center, so he’d better be moving like a tree in a breeze), the “visible” sway is a crock of shit as well.

3. Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus is common in the elderly; it’s useless as an indicator of impairment here.

.02 is not impaired and .02 is not illegal. It’s a bullshit arrest.