Man Arrested For Drunk Driving Without Starting Car

A man is arrested for driving drunk, but he wasn't driving. A unique case out of Sarpy County has the arrestee looking for answers.

Bartender Sue Campbell didn't know the customer, but she knew what to do.

"Tell you what, let me have your keys," Campbell told a patron.

Matt Sullivan, who'd had a few too many drinks, headed to his car parked in the bar parking lot.

"I didn't drive home, just fell asleep," Sullivan says. "I couldn't drive because the bartender had my car keys."

Three hours later, Bellevue police officers order him out of the car. After Sullivan refuses to take a breath test, he's arrested for drunk driving even though there's no key in the ignition.

"They believed that the keys were observed on the passenger seat next to the driver were the keys to the vehicle," says Laurie Synowiecki with Bellevue Police.

But the key evidence fooled the officers. Older model cars have a key that will unlock the door but not start a car. Sullivan says the key that was on his passenger seat would only unlock the car. Sullivan says that shows he shouldn't have been cited for drunk driving.

"I thought I did the right thing," Sullivan says. "I gave her my car keys and couldn't go nowhere."

The bartender agrees.

"People don't always do the responsible thing," Campbell says. "When I asked Matt for his keys, he didn't hesitate. He reached in his pocket and handed them to me."

And Sullivan's door key is what's keeping this from being an open and shut case for Bellevue Police.

"It could be a learning experience for them to go that extra step to determine if the keys are the ignition keys," Synowiecki says.

After calls from WOWT 6 News Fact Finders, the prosecutor reviewed the case and declined to file drunk driving charges against Sullivan.

"I'm not a drunk driver, I'm a drunk parker," Sullivan says.

The prosecutor tells us if a key to start the vehicle had been found inside, that would've been a different story. But since Sullivan did the right thing, there's no need to penalize him.


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