Dad MATTHEW CHAIN DEWITT freely admits he an alcoholic. So I guess we're not supposed to be surprised when he gets blasted and tells his 9-year-old daughter to drive them around the neighborhood.
I really like this part. When cops stopped the vehicle, there were open containers of beer and liquor all over the minvan. But Dad protests that he hadn't been drinking from all of them that day--at least one of the cups of beer was from the PREVIOUS day.
Okaaay. Thanks for clearing up that point for us, buddy.
Dad gets 18 months for having child drive
By SOPHIA VORAVONG • firstname.lastname@example.org • October 28, 2009
A Lafayette man who was intoxicated and riding in a minivan driven by his 9-year-old daughter was sentenced Tuesday to 18 months in prison and one year supervised probation.
The sentence was handed down minutes after Matthew Chain Dewitt, 33, pleaded guilty in Tippecanoe Superior Court 1 to neglect of a dependent, a Class D felony.
He admitted to being an alcoholic -- explaining that he was drinking beer the afternoon of Aug. 1, when he told the girl to drive them through their eastside neighborhood.
"Obviously I made some poor decisions. I've been dependent on alcohol for some time," Dewitt told Judge Pro Tem Joe Bumbleburg. "I do have the intention of maintaining sobriety. My children are important; they are dear to me."
He was arrested after a neighbor called the Lafayette Police Department, reporting that it appeared a child was behind the wheel of a minivan.
The vehicle had circled the block several times -- driving over curbs and onto the grass twice and, at times, almost hitting several vehicles, according to court documents.
When a police officer approached the minivan on Hampton Drive, near Munger Park, Dewitt was in the passenger seat. The 9-year-old was behind the wheel, buckled up and driving.
A cooler containing several empty beer cans, an empty whiskey bottle, a vodka bottle and a plastic foam cup containing beer were found inside.
"There were open containers in the vehicle at the time. Was I drinking them? No," Dewitt told Bumbleburg during Tuesday's hearing.
He said the plastic cup had been left there on the prior day.
Dewitt had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.20 percent afterward, according to court documents. The legal limit to drive in Indiana is 0.08 percent.
He admitted to drinking a can of Budweiser before getting in the minivan.
Bumbleburg hesitated before accepting the plea agreement through the Tippecanoe County prosecutor's office, which dropped additional counts against Dewitt.
They included misdemeanor counts of public intoxication and having an open container and a felony count of criminal recklessness.
Neglect of a dependent doesn't really do this justice," Bumbleburg said. "A 9-year-old behind the wheel of a car ... is an accident waiting to happen.
"The offense is a lot more serious than the label put on this."
He accepted it only because of an ongoing Child in Need of Services case involving Dewitt and his daughter in Tippecanoe Superior Court 3, the county's juvenile court.
Bumbleburg ordered that Dewitt must adhere to all orders in the CHINS proceeding as part of the criminal case.
Deputy Prosecutor Laura Zeman said Dewitt faced only six months to three years incarceration for all of the charges against him because all were part of a single incident.
The sentences would merge, rather than running consecutively.
Zeman and Dewitt's public defender, Rachael Schexnailder, agreed to the 18-month sentence prior to Tuesday's hearing. That allowed Bumbleburg to immediately sentence Dewitt.
He had been scheduled to stand trial Nov. 17.
Dewitt was given a combined 176 days credit for time already served and for good behavior. Schexnailder told Bumbleburg that the CHINS case will or already has included therapy and counseling for Dewitt, his daughter and the rest of their family.