A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Laughs

With a title like that, I certainly couldn’t run the story without providing the photo! As usual, the story first, from True’s 14 November 2010 issue:

A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Laughs

Matthew Nieveen, 19, was arrested in Lincoln, Neb., for alleged drunk driving after police noticed his pickup truck cross the center line several times. It was his second offense. Not news? How about this: he was arrested on Halloween, and was in costume. His blood alcohol level was “more than twice” the .08 percent limit for adults. Nieveen was also charged with having an open container of alcohol in his vehicle, negligent driving, and being a minor in possession of alcohol, since he is under 21. The costume: “He was dressed as a PBT [preliminary breath testing] alcohol sensor,” his arrest report notes — a Breathalyzer, with the blow tube sticking out below …well… his waist. (Lincoln Journal-Star) …And the only one who blew it was Nieveen.

And the photo is, indeed, a classic:

Matthew Nieveen's Mug Shot
Matthew Nieveen’s Mug Shot

Every woman’s dream. Well, a nightmare is a type of dream, isn’t it? The photo was apparently released by the police with the blocked out face. I consider the “Brain Damage” measurement completely accurate, but then again so is “Loser”.

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19 Comments on “A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Laughs

  1. I dislike the hyperbole used in such descriptions; i.e. “…more than TWICE the legal limit…” to infer blind stinking drunkenness. A BAC of .16% may be twice the legal limit (.08%), but for commercial truck drivers, it would be FOUR times the legal limit (.04%). Is that somehow MORE drunk than twice the legal limit? And what about those under 21 when the legal limit for driving conditions is only .02%? That would make them EIGHT times the legal limit and, therefore, incredibly “beyond” drunk?

    As I said, hyperbole intended to color the story rather than state facts. (I realize that it was the reporter or possibly the officer that used such hyperbole, so this critique is not directed at Randy.)

    Good save at the end! As you probably know, I usually put the specific measured result in; I prefer it since it’s more accurate, and (as you imply) less subjective. I would have used the number here too, but as you guessed, the original reporter from the identified source didn’t see fit to say what the specific number was. -rc

  2. You may “dislike the hyperbole used in such descriptions”, Mike, but, in this case, I believe your premise is moot. The reporter or police DID quantify Nieveen’s BAC as being “more than twice” the .08 percent limit for ADULTS. Other than the legal aspect (which IS imperative, of course) of being “over the limit”, the pivotal pieces of this article are that this would be Nieveen’s SECOND offense, that he is 19 and UNDERAGE, that the police actually observed him CROSSING THE CENTER LINE several times and he had an OPEN ALCOHOLIC CONTAINER in his truck. For the life of me, I can’t figure out WHY the police blacked out his face. Even though he’s not legally old enough to drink, at 19, he IS considered an adult. Hopefully, they’ll take his license away (at the very least), so he doesn’t get third chance to kill someone before he reaches the ripe old age of 21.

    The sentiment against drunk drivers runs high here, Mike. And I can’t say I disagree with them. -rc

  3. Actually, any comment to the story is essentially moot. What can be said about some clown who hasn’t even reached drinking age yet, but has already accumulated two DUI’s, one dressed as the instrument of his conviction? He’s lucky that we are a society that looks out for the idiots; otherwise, he’d never make it to 25 when, ostensibly, his insurance rate is supposed to go down.

    Still, there is always the obligatory comment about how he can’t help it because his mama didn’t love him, or his daddy gave him some weird name. Or maybe he was bullied on MySpace.

    So I took the opportunity to address a sentiment that many have commented on, the pervasively increasing bias in reporting the news. Hyperbole is designed to elicit emotion, not report facts. Once over the legal limit, does it really matter by how much? Is it even worse if he were 3x the legal limit? Does it matter when a murderer kills someone, but a drunk driver killed him dead? Is it somehow a worse offense when a drunk driver “wipes out” a family of five, when I only kill a family of four due to inattention?

    Journalists are expected to report the facts and minimize their own bias, but I suspect that editors actually demand the opposite. “If it bleeds, it leads!” Even if it doesn’t bleed, try to make it look like it.

    You’re right, it’s a moot point, because it’s not the journalists; it’s not the editors; it’s not even the media. It’s the paying public. The lyrics to Don Henley’s “Dirty Laundry” come to mind, but I’ll leave this link from the Washington Post and Ted Koppel: Olbermann, O’Reilly and the death of real news.

    I think the amount of alcohol in his system is totally relevant, as is the fact that it’s his second offense, as well as his age. I also agree with Olbermann in his video response that “objectivity” in journalism is — and always has been — a myth. -rc

  4. The way I see it is, young people learn to drive at the same time as they learn to drink. Look to European countries where the legal drinking age is much lower, and you will find a lower occurrence of drinking and driving incidents.

    And as a truck driver myself, I must correct “Mike from Dallas”: the legal limit for us, over much of North America, is .00, or none at all. Would you want someone at the control of what is essentially an 80 000-pound weapon to have ANY impairment to his or her reflexes?

    In some jurisdictions, even a motorcycle can be labeled a weapon, if involved in a deadly accident (vehicular homicide). Drunk driving laws exist for good reason; this story shows that not even laws can correct stupidity.

    And as to where he chose to put the blow tube, it unfortunately also shows how bad his taste is (Can you spell “immature”?)

  5. “Twice the legal limit” may be sensationalism, but it also fact, not “hyperbole” (i.e. exaggeration). Further, the level of drunkenness is relevant because the more drunk the driver, the more he should realize he is drunk and avoid getting behind the wheel.

  6. At least this report was not about a Florida incident. Maybe I’m too sensitive, but as a fifth-generation Floridian, it seems that there is either an abundance of Florida-based low-lifes on thisistrue.com or maybe I’ve seen too many TV shows (cops, world’s most wanted, speeders, world’s dumbest, etc.) that seem to highlight Florida… in fact, when was the last time you remember a crime entertainment series that focused on Colorado? Wait, that might be because we have the world’s dumbest moving in here… I forgot.

    I’m not sure about the dumbest, but definitely the weirdest. -rc

  7. Like Ron White says, “You can’t cure stupid”.

    My question concerns the laws about drinking and driving. Why is it that getting drunk, getting behind the wheel and killing someone while you’re impaired gets a lighter sentence than someone in possession of cocaine (even if it’s not been used)? I think someone drunk behind the wheel should be charged with misuse of a deadly weapon and, if they kill another person with it, murder. Forget Vehicular homicide. That’s a slap on the wrist when there has been so much advertising for so many years that only a totally ignorant person wouldn’t know that they are committing a criminal act when they drink and drive and have no excuse.

    I’m not a cocaine user, by the way. I just used that as an example. A drunk driver killed two of my friends when he went through a red light and broadsided them. He got three years for vehicular homicide. A neighbor’s son was nineteen when he had consensual sex with a seventeen year old girl. Her parents charged him with sexual battery and he got eight years in prison. Where is the justice here? Did either of these sentences fit the crime? The drunk can get out, get drunk, kill a few more people and finish THAT sentence, all while the kid is still in prison.

    Drunk driving is attempted murder. Killing someone while driving drunk is murder. Pure and simple.

  8. What I like about this story is that it, in a fair way, makes fun of someone who drank and drove. Perhaps it will resonate with a few people …not enough of course … who may not be moved to change their behavior by logic, but may be by fear of humiliation.

  9. “Only two things are infinite. Rocket science and human stupidity. And I’m not sure about the former.” – Albert Einstein

    The stupidity of people (especially people like this guy)… It only gets worse.

    Um, “It’s not rocket science!” The quote attributed to Einstein is, “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.” (emphasis added). But still, we get the point. -rc

  10. It isn’t so much that Mark got the quotation wrong, it’s that he got it so spectacularly wrong, coming up with a substitution that makes no sense whatever. Really, “rocket science”?

    So why am I not surprised that he’s in Florida? But I guess it could be worse: he could be in Mississippi, home of the worst schools in the nation, which would at least give him an excuse.

  11. The story is even more absurd when you notice he is wearing dinosaur pajama pants.

    I actually didn’t notice! There was just too much to love about that whole photo. Thanks for pointing that out! -rc

  12. to rewinn, Mercer Island:

    Actually, resonating with ONE person who decides not to drive while drunk is enough.

    “Perhaps it will resonate with a few people …not enough of course … who may not be moved to change their behavior by logic, but may be by fear of humiliation.”

  13. Worse than publishing your name: in our newspaper they state your AGE… not worth a ticket!!

    But I do not drink, so what do I know?

    It’s standard in news stories to list subjects’ ages. I include them in TRUE’s stories, when available, too. -rc

  14. What galls me to no end is when you hear a report of a person being arrested at a bar, walking down the street, or even in their own home and their BAC is “twice the legal limit”.
    I never realized there was a legal BAC limit for sitting in your own living room.

    I was in agreement until you went too far! There are laws in most places against being drunk in public, but it seems to me that someone walking home and not being a problem should be able to walk home, rather than drive. Same with being in a bar — if they aren’t likely to drive. That’s what “designated drivers” are for. I’ve never heard of anyone arrested solely for being drunk in their living room, and would want to hear about it if such a story appeared in a legit news source. -rc

  15. People tend to misunderstand the Public Intoxication laws in Texas. While it sounds like simply being drunk in public is a crime, the full law refers to those who are an imminent danger to themselves or to others. However, some police do use the threat of public intoxication to harass people.

    Several years ago (2005), the TABC (Tx Alcoholic Beverage Commission) hired hundreds of additional agents to work undercover in drinking establishments, ostensibly to reduce the incidence of bartenders selling to obviously over-intoxicated patrons. Instead, they abused their authority to issue citations for being drunk in public. The program was drastically reduced in 2006 in response to national outcry.

    Same for being charged with intoxication in your own living room. While that’s not a crime, all by itself, it occasionally arises from some other incident in which the police have been called. It’s a sledge hammer approach to resolve an otherwise minor incident, similar to a Disorderly Conduct charge. Usually, it’s FAR cheaper and quicker to just pay the fine and suffer the criminal record than to pay an exorbitant defense cost. (And going into court without an attorney, hoping for “common sense”, is tantamount to going to a gunfight without a gun.)

    Interesting and useful, to be sure. But did someone say Texas? -rc

  16. “I’ve never heard of anyone arrested solely for being drunk in their living room, and would want to hear about it if such a story appeared in a legit news source. -rc”

    Please note that I did not say *anything* about them being arrested for being “over the legal limit”. My commentary was on the *REPORTING* of such affairs. The media seems to have a love affair with “the legal limit” even in cases where there *IS* no legal limit. (In one’s own home, for example.) “…when you hear a report of a person being arrested…”

  17. True that the original article did not involve Texas, but while also true that DUI and other drinking laws are similar among the 50 states, there are differences, so I chose to point out the details in the one state that I know about. It provides some details if others want to compare it with the laws in their states.

    For Nebraska, where the story originated, the “legal limit” is, in fact, .08%. The hype that the defendant was “more than twice the legal limit” was pointless, since the only relevance is for sentencing purposes, and THAT is related to .15% (which is less than the “twice the legal limit”).

    Contrary to the remark from the Canadian(?) truck driver, the Nebraska “legal limit” for holders of a CDL while driving a commercial vehicle is .04%, not 0.0%.

    And then there is the “legal limit” for DUI for a person under 21 years of age at .02%. Now, given that it’s already illegal for anyone under 21 to drink alcohol at all, why would they be allowed to “legally” pass a breathalyzer at, say, .019%? Actually, Minor In Possession only applies to physical alcohol externally to the body, so DUI is one way to penalize him even without the bottle. (Or additionally under a separate law if he still has the bottle.) So to be accurate, Nieveen was really more than EIGHT times over the “legal limit”.

    But what I find most interesting about Nebraska’s DUI laws is that a driver may be charged AND convicted of DUI for APPEARING to be intoxicated, even if NO alcohol nor drugs are found in his body at all.

    I think we’re getting too far from the point here. Which is: the guy is under 21, and thus (in many/most states) his “limit” of blood alcohol for driving is zero. The story put it into the perspective that his was “more than twice” the “.08 percent limit” for those over 21. That’s pretty damned drunk. -rc


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