Police Crack Down on Drunk Driving In Meatpacking District, Netting Editor

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The New York Sun

The meatpacking district’s emergence as a nightlife center has prompted a substantial crackdown on drunk driving in the 6th Precinct, which last week led to the arrest of the Page Six editor, Richard Johnson.

The precinct, which includes the West Village and extends to 14th Street, is home to a growing number of hotspots, including SoHo House, which Mr. Johnson visited before he was pulled over by police.

Arrests for driving while intoxicated are up 242% in the area compared with police data for the same time period five years ago. Compared with last year, drunk-driving arrests are up 66%, to 48 from 29. Among the rest of southern Manhattan, there is no increase in DWI arrests this year.

Mr. Johnson was arrested on the border of the 6th and 10th precincts. Police have focused on the meatpacking district’s 14th Street intersection since at least last fall.

Mr. Johnson’s experience was described in his popular New York Post column, which chronicled the editor’s refusal to take breath tests that measure blood-alcohol content. The gossip page labeled that decision as reflecting “dubious judgment.”

Regardless of the outcome of the misdemeanor charge he faces, Mr. Johnson, 52, could lose his driver’s license for a year, several lawyers familiar with drunk driving defenses said. In New York State, a driver who refuses to take a test measuring blood-alcohol automatically faces the same penalty as a first-time DWI conviction – license revocation for at least six months. Most other states have similar penalties for such refusals.

Several attorneys who specialize in drunk driving cases say Mr. Johnson’s judgment may have been spot-on from a defense perspective.

“If you think you’ve had too much to drink, you want to consider whether you want to take the breath test or not,” a defense lawyer in Manhattan, Adam Perlmutter, said. “It denies the prosecution a large piece of evidence.”

A Wall Street lawyer who handles DWI cases, Salvatore Paszynsky, said he occasionally has clients who were likely below the legal alcohol limit but refused to take a breath test because they were nervous they might be over the legal limit of 0.08%.

Mr. Johnson’s lawyer, Edward Hayes, did not return a call for comment yesterday afternoon.

The New York Sun

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