Idaho Drunk Driver Must Pay for Pants, Not Police Car

By JOHN MILLER | June 27, 2012

A recalcitrant drunken driver must pay $68 to replace pants that a Boise police officer ripped during a foot chase, but the Idaho Court of Appeals ruled the man doesn’t have to fork over another $1,089 for damage to a patrol car that hit his dog.

Raymond Stuart Nienburg of Boise has been taken into custody for drunken driving eight times. The latest arrest came on Sept. 1, 2010, and he later pleaded guilty and was sent to prison for up to 15 years.

Fourth District Court Judge Cheri C. Copsey also ordered him to pay $1,156.98 – the cost of the trooper’s trousers and fixing the damaged cruiser.

The Court of Appeals decided Friday that Nienburg never agreed to pay the full amount and that the damage to the patrol car was caused by Nienburg resisting arrest, a separate charge the district court agreed to dismiss in exchange for his guilty plea to felony drunken driving.

Nienburg, 50, has drinking and driving arrests dating back more than 15 years.

Police in Idaho’s capital said Nienburg was driving irregularly nearly two years ago when an officer signaled him to pull to the side of the road. After stopping, Nienburg allegedly decided to make a break for it, and the officer ripped his pants during the short pursuit that followed.

Back on the road, Nienburg’s dog also decided to make a break for it. A responding backup officer struck the dog with his cruiser, killing the animal and damaging the vehicle, according to court documents.

As part of a plea agreement, Nienburg’s defense lawyer agreed his client would pay restitution not to exceed $1,156.98 but was free to argue for less. At sentencing, Nienburg agreed to pay the $68 for the pants but balked at paying for the damaged cruiser.

Judge Copsey insisted Nienburg pay the full amount, suggesting that balking would threaten the plea agreement. Nienburg agreed to the deal and later appealed.

Lawyers for the Idaho attorney general’s office who handled the appeal conceded damage to the police car was the result of the resisting arrest charge that was dismissed but insisted Nienburg should still be forced to pay the full $1,156.98 because he’d agreed to the deal in Copsey’s courtroom.

After reviewing transcripts from the original proceedings, however, the appeals judges sided with Nienburg.

“The state would have us read into the agreement words of promise or consent by Nienburg that simply are not there,” Judge Karen Lansing wrote.

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