Chelsea Halter of Biscayne Park, Florida was arrested on Wednesday for allegedly driving the wrong way on the Palmetto Expressway and causing multiple car accidents, one of which sent a driver to a hospital, while under the influence of alcohol.
Halter, 24, was charged with DUI, DUI causing property or personal damage, reckless driving, and leaving the scene of an accident with property damage. She was also charged with two misdemeanors for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. Halter has since bonded out of Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center. The press did not list an attorney for her.
According to the arrest report, the alleged incident took place at around 2 a.m. on Wednesday on the Palmetto Expressway in North Miami. Halter reportedly drove east on the westbound lanes of State Road 826 for 22 minutes before Florida Highway Patrol was able to stop her. Four cars crashed as they swerved out of the way to avoid her, sources say.
“I noticed the debris in the air, the smoke and everything in front of me,” said one witness. “It was like a movie. There were vehicles spinning towards me at full speed, so I had to make a decision: if I wanted to hit a vehicle or to the left and avoid all these vehicles.”
No one was severely injured during the incident, but one driver was taken to a hospital after experiencing neck and back pain.
The Florida Highway Patrol trooper who stopped Halter reported a “strong odor of alcoholic beverage” in her vehicle. He said her eyes appeared glassy and there was a bottle of Southern Comfort and a small bag of marijuana in the car. Halter managed to complete one standard field sobriety exercise but refused to do more. She also did not consent to a breath test, sources say.
Under Florida law, a DUI with property damage is committed when a person drives a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs that impair the person’s normal faculties, has a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or higher, and causes damage, either directly or indirectly, to the property of another person.
Breath and urine tests are commonly used to determine a person’s blood alcohol level. An offender can have their driver’s license suspended for up to a year if they refuse to take the test. A second refusal is considered a first-degree misdemeanor and can increase the suspension period to 18 months.
Blood tests can also be used to check a person’s blood alcohol level, but that is rare in DUI cases. The only time police can compel a person to give a blood sample is after a car crash involving serious injuries or death.
A first-time DUI offense that does not involve serious injuries or death is usually treated as a misdemeanor, even if the offender is accused of causing minor injuries or property damage. In most cases, first-time DUI offenders usually receive probation and other conditions, such as community service, courses on DUI, and driver’s license suspension, among others.