Lawyer: Sober Unser Jr. won't fight DUI charge

Updated: July 10, 2007, 5:56 PM ET
Associated Press

LAS VEGAS -- Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. will not fight a driving under the influence charge stemming from a January crash on a Nevada freeway, officials said Tuesday.

Unser, whose blood-alcohol percentage was almost three times the legal limit when he was arrested Jan. 25, will plead no contest to driving under the influence, his lawyer and a prosecutor said.

Lesser charges, including misdemeanor hit-and-run, failure to render aid in an accident and failure to report an accident, will be dropped, according to the plea deal.

"It was an unfortunate mistake, but he's learned from it," lawyer Andrew Leavitt told The Associated Press, speaking on behalf of Unser, 45, of Henderson. "He's a recovering alcoholic. He hasn't had a drop of alcohol since this happened."

Clark County's chief deputy district attorney, L.J. O'Neale, said a breath test shortly after the 10:45 a.m. crash put Unser's blood-alcohol content at 0.22 percent, well above Nevada's legal limit of 0.08 percent. Unser also failed field sobriety tests.

"Even the most skilled drivers in the world can't drive well when they're drunk," O'Neale said.

He called the plea deal "a standard agreement" and said Unser will be allowed to submit a written plea to a Henderson judge through his lawyer.

Unser will automatically lose his driver's license for 90 days. He will be fined the maximum $1,000, and have to attend a drunk driving school, a victim-impact panel and undergo alcohol abuse evaluation, O'Neale said.

"He got no special treatment," O'Neale said.

The Nevada Highway Patrol said Unser was driving a black Ford Excursion that sideswiped a Mazda sedan, which crashed into a cement median. The driver of the Mazda reported no injuries at the scene, the NHP said.

A witness followed Unser's vehicle before Henderson police stopped it a short time later.

Leavitt said Unser has been attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings daily since January, and has performed more than 100 hours of community service on alcohol treatment related causes in recent months.

Unser also makes appearances on behalf of "LIVE outside the bottle," an organization created by biopharmaceutical company Cephalon Inc., of Frazer, Penn., and biotechnology firm Alkermes Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., to promote treatment of alcoholism through medication and counseling, his lawyer said.

Unser is the son of Indy 500 racing legend Al Unser, and the nephew of three-time Indy winner Bobby Unser. He won the Indy 500 in 1992 and 1994, and won two CART points titles and two IROC championships.

In 2002, Unser underwent treatment for alcohol abuse after his girlfriend said he hit her in the face while he was drunk in Indianapolis. Prosecutors did not file charges.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press