Nathaniel Chambers, a driver for the Department of Homeless Services, was supposed to drive commissioner Robert Hess to City Hall on Friday for the inauguration, and if he’d had an E-ZPass on his city vehicle he might have made it. Instead, he ended up arrested with DWI, partly on the basis of an improper Breathalyzer test.
Chambers was running late to pick up Hess at his Queens home when he was stopped at a toll plaza on the Triborough/RFK Bridge trying to pay cash in an E-ZPass lane. When that didn’t work out for him, he turned on the red emergency light on his dash and played the Commissioner card with Bridges and Tunnels officers. That didn’t work out so well either. Officers said they smelled booze and ordered him out of the car.
According to sources who talked to the press, Chambers was combative (a source told the Post he called a sergeant a cracker) and too drunk to stand up straight. Chambers says he was at a New Years party, but stopped drinking seven hours earlier and wasn’t drunk. Prosecutor Eric Gerard went with “observed to have bloodshot eyes and was unsteady on his feet.”
Chambers, who has a previous DWI conviction on his record, refused a portable breathalyzer, but the straw of the machine was placed in front of his mouth anyway. The sort-of test registered .89, just above the limit, a number prosecutors may not be able to use. He refused a second BAC test at the 25th Precinct station house.
Homeless Services spokeswoman Linda Bazerjian said that the agency was looking into both the current event and Chambers’ record to determine his future as a driver for the agency, but that may be a moot point. According to sources who spoke to the News, Chambers has a commercial license, and the rules for a commercial license (pdf) are considerably stricter. The blood alcohol limit for commercial license holders is .04, and both a BAC of .04 and refusing a test are grounds to lose a commercial license for a year on a first offense. A second offense means loss of the commercial license for life.