Saturday, June 7, 2003

Man defends driving drunk when wife went into labor

By Roger Alford
The Associated Press

PIKEVILLE, Ky. - An eastern Kentucky man arrested for driving drunk is asking that the charge be dropped because he was a better choice to be behind the wheel than his pregnant wife who was in labor at the time.

Danny D. Tackett, 33, of McDowell, was driving his wife to the hospital to give birth when he was taken into custody.

A defense attorney claims Tackett, who had consumed "several beers," was legally justified to drive his wife to the hospital in light of the circumstances. That defense, if successful, would poke a hole in Kentucky's law against drunken driving.

"What was he supposed to do? She was in labor," said the attorney, Ned Pillersdorf of Prestonsburg.

Kentucky Vehicle Enforcement Officer Jamie Rose arrested Tackett on U.S. 23 in Pikeville just before 10 p.m. on May 25. In an affidavit attached to the motion for dismissal, Tackett's wife, Amanda Tackett, said Rose told her to drive herself to the hospital when her husband was taken into custody.

In her affidavit, Amanda Tackett said she had insisted that her husband drive her to Pikeville Methodist Hospital when she went into labor. She said her husband did not appear to be drunk, and that "he certainly was in better shape to drive" than she was.

Rose said he offered to call an ambulance for Amanda Tackett. However, she said she wanted to drive herself on to the hospital.

Danny Tackett was released from jail shortly after midnight. His 7-pound, 3-ounce baby boy was born about 8 a.m. on May 26.

Assistant Pike County Attorney Roger Varney said it is too early to comment on how his office will handle the case. Varney said Danny Tackett's blood-alcohol level was .095, just above the .08 level where a person is presumed intoxicated.

Danny Tackett is scheduled for arraignment on June 16.

In his motion to dismiss the case, Pillersdorf argues that Danny Tackett's conduct was justifiable and permissible under state law because he believed it necessary to drive his wife to the hospital rather than run the risk of delivering the baby without help from medical professionals.

Kentucky Vehicle Enforcement's Sgt. Brian Howard disagreed.

"In that situation, he was putting his wife in a greater danger by driving intoxicated," he said. "If he climbed into the car knowing he had been drinking, he should have called and had an ambulance pick her up."

Howard said the Tacketts could have gotten to three other hospitals, one in their hometown, much quicker than they could have driven to Pikeville.

"If it had been an emergency, he shouldn't have been passing all those up," he said.

Sara McKinney, state chairwoman for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said it's never justifiable to drive intoxicated.

"I'm sure he could have called his local police department, an ambulance service, or just any number of people, and told them the situation, and they could have responded," McKinney said. "He was actually endangering the public, as well as himself, his wife and his unborn child. I don't think that floats."

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