The federal government on Wednesday dropped drunken driving and reckless driving charges against Bruce Springsteen, admitting that his blood-alcohol level was so low that it didn't warrant the charges.
The incident happened three months ago at the Gateway National Recreation Area in Springsteen's home state of New Jersey, but it came to light in early February at an awkward time for Jeep, which had just aired its Super Bowl ad featuring Springsteen. The ad, titled "The Middle," was a post-Trump call for Americans to come together and put differences aside.
Instead, Jeep put the ad aside, saying it was better to table it until more details were known. It would clearly be awkward for a car company to have someone with a DUI on his record as its spokesman.
Springsteen had also just performed Jan. 20 as part of President Joe Biden’s inauguration, singing “Land of Hope and Dreams” in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
But Springsteen was innocent until proven guilty, and the government failed to meet that burden. Springsteen was administered a breathalyzer test, and he registered a blood-alcohol level of .02 — far below the legal limit of .08.
Springsteen, in a court appearance on Wednesday, was cleared of the drunken driving and reckless driving charges — but did plead guilty to consuming alcohol in the federal park, which is not permitted. Gateway National Recreation Area. Better known as Sandy Hook, it is an Atlantic Ocean peninsula with views of the New York City skyline.
Facing a federal judge — the case was in federal court because the park is federal land — and more than 100 onlookers in a video conference, Springsteen admitted he knew it was illegal to consume alcohol at the park.
“I had two small shots of tequila,” Springsteen said in response to questions from an assistant U.S. attorney.
U.S. Magistrate Anthony Mautone fined Springsteen $500, plus $40 in court fees. “Mr. Springsteen, I need to ask you how long you need to pay the fine,” the judge said.
“I think I can pay that immediately, your honor," Springsteen told Mautone.
The settlement led Jeep to resume airing a two-minute video it sponsored titled "The Middle" first shown during the Feb. 7 Super Bowl, in which Springsteen speaks of reuniting a divided America.
"As we stated previously, we paused the commercial until the facts were established," Jeep, a unit of Stellantis, said in a statement. "Now that the matter has been resolved, we are unpausing the film."
Spotify also launched a podcast this week called "Renegades: Born in the USA," featuring Springsteen and former President Barack Obama.
In an emailed statement, Springsteen lawyer Mitchell Ansell wrote that his client “is pleased with the outcome." Ansell pointed out that Springsteen has no criminal record of any kind.
According to a probable cause document written by park police at the time of the incident, Springsteen told a park officer he had been stopped by fans in the park, who had offered him a shot of tequila. He said he had drunk two shots in the previous 20 minutes and wouldn’t take a preliminary breath test.
Mautone, the judge, said Wednesday that the preliminary test is not required, and would not even have been admissible in court.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Baker also noted that while Springsteen refused to take the preliminary test at the park, that test is not actually required by law. “He did submit to the legally required breath test when he was at the ranger station,” Barker told Judge Anthony Mautone.
After declining to take the field test, Springsteen was arrested. He was taken to the park's ranger station, where his blood-alcohol level came back at .02, a quarter of the legal limit in New Jersey, prosecutors said Wednesday. So it's somewhat unclear why a DUI charge even went forward.
The park officer wrote that he saw Springsteen take a shot of tequila and then get on his motorcycle. The officer wrote that the rocker “smelt strongly of alcohol” Nov. 14 and “had glassy eyes” and that there was a bottle of Patron tequila that was “completely empty.”
The report described Springsteen, 71, as “visibly swaying back and forth” during a field sobriety test and said he declined to provide a sample on an initial breath test.
Associated Press and Reuters was included in this report.