As your Panama City DUI accident law firm, we know that tragedies involving drivers who got behind the wheel after consuming alcohol are all too common. It seems like every week the story of a collision stemming from drinking and driving appears in local news outlets. We also know that for every driver apprehended and charged with DUI, there are many more who took the risks and had close calls that could have resulted in a tragic outcome.
Since the stories appear often, sometimes it takes a unique spin on driving while intoxicated to capture public attention. Such a story developed on Wednesday July 11 in Walton County and was covered by reporters at WJGH. 26-year-old Britney Michelle Simpson was visiting our area from her home in Warner Robbins, Georgia. She was staying with her boyfriend at the home of the boyfriend's brother. Simpson got into an argument with the brother and she wanted to leave the residence in her own vehicle. The man denied her access to her keys because she was intoxicated at the time. Not ready to give up, Simpson searched and found a set of keys to her host's vehicle. She entered the vehicle and began driving away.
The twist? Her boyfriend's brother is an investigator with the Walton County Sheriff's office. By the time she took the car, the brother had left the home. As Simpson drove away, her boyfriend tried to stop her and reminded her that she was taking a sheriff's office vehicle. Simpson, who was still intoxicated, replied that she did not care. Not long after, the investigator, presumably notified of the development by his brother, reported that his agency vehicle had been stolen.
Operating on the belief that Simpson was heading for the Destin area, other law enforcement agencies were contacted and asked to look out for the vehicle and set up checkpoints. However, Simpson returned to the residence about 20 minutes after she had left. She dropped off the agency vehicle and got in her own car. It isn't clear how she had gotten the keys that were taken away before, but Simpson started to leave again. She was stopped just a short distance from the investigator's residence. A deputy arrested Simpson on charges of driving under the influence and grand theft auto. She is currently being held at Walton County Jail with a bond set at $10,000.
While this story is somewhat amusing, it is important to remember that driving under the influence is a very serious matter. According to a report from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Florida saw 2,445 alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities in 2010. While this represented 115 less deaths than seen in the state in 2009, making Florida one of five states with a triple digit drop, it is still much too high. It also does not take into account DUI accidents that led to serious, life-changing injuries.
If a Panama City drunk driver took the life of someone you loved, or caused an injury to you or a close relative, please call our law firm. We are here to help.
For additional information on drunk driving, see the Center for Disease Control's Impaired Driving page. For a review of DUI laws in Florida, see the State of Florida's DUI and Administrative Suspension Laws website.