'Burn Notice' Actor Pleads to Reckless Driving in 2009 Miami Drunk Driving Case

February 9, 2011 by David S. Seltzer

As a Miami-Dade DUI criminal defense attorney, I was very interested to read about a plea bargain that helped a high-profile defendant avoid a conviction for drunk driving. Jeffrey Donovan, an actor from the television show Burn Notice, pleaded guilty last week to reckless driving. The deal came after Donovan was charged with driving under the influence in July of 2009, when he narrowly avoided an accident with a stopped Miami-Dade police car. The plea bargain allows Donovan to avoid jail time. Instead, he will pay fines totaling more than $1,000 and serve six months of probation. A typical first DUI in south Florida usually includes probation, fines, community service and a driver’s license suspension. It does not typically involve jail time.

The case stems from events late in the evening of July 12, 2009. Donovan reportedly nearly ran his car into a police car that was stopped at a red light, but swerved at the last minute to avoid it. The officer’s later report said Donovan appeared intoxicated, with bloodshot, watery eyes and a smell of alcohol. He also reportedly failed field sobriety tests, but declined to take a breath test. At the scene, the officer said, Donovan said he had had three glasses of wine at the Fontainebleau Hotel and said he thought he was only “borderline” drunk. However, he said, he’d also taken a Benadryl, and told the officer that was probably his biggest mistake of the evening. The officer took him in for DUI anyway. The reasons for the plea bargain weren’t reported, but his choice to plead guilty to reckless driving will help him avoid disruptions to his show, which shoots in Florida, as well as a movie currently being filmed in Colombia.

The Benadryl comment has prompted some snarky comments from the Miami New Times – but as a Fort Lauderdale drunk driving criminal defense lawyer, I happen to know that Benadryl actually can interact with alcohol. Its active ingredient, diphenhydramine hydrochloride, is an antihistamine that also has a mild sedative effect, which means it can increase the impairment caused by a few glasses of wine. In fact, the warning label tells patients not to mix it with alcohol because it might increase the sedative effect. If Donovan didn’t realize this, he might have truly thought he was within his personal tolerance when he got in the car. It’s not clear whether that was the basis for the plea bargain, but an experienced south Florida intoxicated driving criminal defense attorney can use circumstances like these to negotiate the best possible deal with prosecutors.

If you’re charged with drunk driving in south Florida, you should call Seltzer Law, P.A., right away for help keeping your license and your freedom. To set up a free, confidential case evaluation, contact us through the Internet or call 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (1-888-843-3333), 24 hours a day and seven days a week.