Well-known actress Reese Witherspoon was arrested when her husband, Hollywood agent James Toth, was pulled over for driving drunk in Atlanta last month. According to the police report, Witherspoon would not stay in the car while officers conducted a field sobriety test on Toth, who was driving at the time. New Jersey drunk driving lawyers say that Witherspoon has been charged with disorderly conduct, while her husband faces charges for driving under the influence of alcohol.
A state trooper noticed the couple's car weaving in and out of traffic lanes early Friday morning, and pulled the car over. Upon inspection, Toth smelled strongly of alcohol and had watery, bloodshot eyes, and droopy eyelids, prompting Trooper First Class J. Pyland to initiate a field sobriety test. Toth admitted to having a drink at a restaurant two hours prior to the traffic stop. Witherspoon, 37, attempted to get out of the car before the test began, and the trooper told her to sit back in the car. When she got out a second time, he warned her that she would be arrested if she tried again.
While her husband was performing the test, Witherspoon "began to hang out the window and say that she did not believe [Pyland] was a real police officer." Pyland placed Toth under arrest for drunk driving and failing to maintain the lane, at which point he reported that Witherspoon left the car for a third time and stated that she was "allowed to stand on American ground" as a U.S. citizen. Pyland placed her under arrest as well. The actress then asked the officer if he knew who she was, and told him he would be on "national news" for arresting her.
The Oscar-winning actress released a statement following the incident, saying that she is "deeply embarrassed" about her behavior. She apologized for threatening the state trooper who pulled the couple over. "I clearly had one drink too many…[and] I was frightened for my husband, but that is no excuse" Witherspoon said, "I was disrespectful to the officer who was just doing his job." She and her publicist could not comment further on the pending case. She has a court hearing scheduled for May 22, with her husband's hearing the day after.
In New Jersey, disorderly persons charges carry a maximum penalty of six months in a county jail. If the person being charged has no prior record, they are usually not sentenced with jail time, but they are required to pay a fine of $1,000, or $500 for petty disorderly persons charges. A disorderly persons charge is a criminal offense, although New Jersey DUI/DWI lawyers say that it is similar to crimes at the misdemeanor level. These charges do show up on a permanent record, but can be expunged after a five-year waiting period, unless other crimes on a record prevent expungements.
The drunk driving attorneys at New Jersey law firm Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, offer legal counsel and representation to anyone arrested on DUI/DWI charges in New Jersey.