Smashed: The toll of driving drunk in Minnesota

One face, one case: Nathan Ray Vera

  • Updated: February 17, 2010 - 11:07 AM

Nathan Ray Vera

Photo: Hennepin County Sheriff's Office,

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Latest incident: About 11 p.m. on Jan. 9, on I-94 in Brooklyn Center.

Description: A man speeding and repeatedly changing lanes on the interstate was arrested for drunken driving after getting off I-94 and pulling into a SuperAmerica store at 69th Av. N. and Brooklyn Blvd., according to the State Patrol.

After failing a field sobriety test, Vera was arrested by a state trooper and placed in the back seat of his squad car. Vera damaged the rear seat light and refused to be handcuffed. He told the trooper he had to go to the bathroom, unzipped his pants and began to urinate on the seat, according to the complaint.

After being taken to the station's restroom, Vera took a swing at the trooper and an assisting officer. He spat at the trooper and kicked him in the chest and arm. He also kicked the assisting officer and scratched his face, according to the complaint.

Status: Vera was charged with second-degree DWI, a gross misdemeanor. The maximum penalty is one year in jail and a $3,000 fine. He also was charged with two counts of fourth-degree assault, a felony with a maximum sentence of three years and a $6,000 fine.

History: Vera was convicted of drunken driving three times between 1999 and 2005. His license was revoked for 5 years in 2003. He was convicted of driving without a license in 2007. Vera spent 90 days in the workhouse for his third DWI. Altogether, he paid $4,366 in fines and court fees and served eight years of probation.

JANE FRIEDMANN

  • about this series

  • In Minnesota, drunken drivers who kill someone with their car sometimes get less time behind bars than nonviolent offenders. Public safety advocates say it's part of a culture of forgiveness surrounding drunken driving, a social problem that killed 893 people on Minnesota roads in the past five years. Read the Star Tribune's in-depth look at the scourge of drunken driving, the victims it claims and the public safety questions it raises.

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