‘One of nation’s worst drunk drivers’ gets a break

Nothing, not losing a license, not jail time, not even losing most of her kids to the state, is likely to keep Tasha Lynn Schleicher, 41, of New Hope, Minn., from driving drunk.

Schleicher, you may recall from a NewsCut post, is the woman the Riverside, Ill., police chief labeled “one of the worst DUI offenders in the United States” when police found her passed out at a gas station in April, after dropping off the one child she had left so he could party on spring break, although she told authorities at the time she couldn’t remember where.

It was DUI arrest number 11 for her.

In 2017 she drove drunk in Rochester and crashed into a median barrier on U.S. Highway 52 with five kids in the car. When police showed up, she was breastfeeding one of them. She didn’t have a driver’s license.

The Rochester Post-Bulletin found that in almost every one of her encounters with the law — and there were plenty — no resources were provided to her by child protection workers.

“I guess I can’t blame it on them,” she said of the caseworkers. “They’re my kids, and I should’ve taken care of them and not drank, so I don’t want to place blame on them because I’m the one who let (the kids) down.”

Schleicher, it’s safe to say, is a mess and she’s an easy punching bag, even in a state like Minnesota where one of every seven drivers has a drunk driving conviction.

But when she was given probation for her latest DUI on Monday, her story revealed another truth that doesn’t get anywhere near enough attention: the system isn’t that tough on drunks on the road.

She had seven felony charges filed against her, but she cut a deal in which everything was dropped except for a single DUI charge in exchange for a guilty plea.

The judge gave her two years of probation.

Tom Weitzel, the police chief in Riverside, is disgusted.

“A sentence of 24 months of probation for Ms. Schleicher is, simply put, disappointing,” Weitzel told the Chicago Sun Times in an email. “This continues to demonstrate that as a nation that drunk driving and drugged driving are not treated as a serious criminal offenses. Society’s views need to change and habitual DUI offenders need to be held accountable for their actions.”

Reality check: Every 50 minutes, someone dies in a drunk driving crash in the United States (source: CDC). Society’s views aren’t going to change. Even when Ms. Schleicher eventually kills someone.

(h/t: Matthew Becker)

  • She seems like she would be a good candidate for a SCRAM device during her probation period? https://www.scramsystems.com/products/scram-continuous-alcohol-monitoring/

  • William_TellAll

    I guess it’s not a “real” crime until this person kills someone when she is driving drunk.

    • AL287

      I’m surprised she hasn’t killed someone already.

      It’s clear it is impossible to keep an alcoholic from driving. All they care about is getting their next drink no matter who they hurt.

      The real criminals here are the people who allow her to continue to drive in her drunken state, including the judge in Illinois.

      It shouldn’t take a death to put these people behind bars permanently.

      Perhaps drunk driving convictions should be a condition for renewing vehicle registrations and vehicle insurance with an alert coming up on the screen when their name is entered.

      Revoking the drivers license obviously doesn’t work.

      • jon

        let me know when you start refusing to sell them tags… I’m going to invest in some security screws for my license plates.

        • Jack

          People already steal plates and stickers.

  • Jim in RF

    I see that 1:7 ratio cited a lot, but can’t find any original data from later than 1990. It seems like there’s some sort of circular reference issue. I don’t doubt that its high, but I wonder if its really 1:7. 2015 data shows that 2015 arrests are only 60% of 2006.

    • Jim in RF

      A lot of people who had DUI citations on their record 15 years ago have probably aged out of the system, and their replacements might be less likely to drink/drive — a bubble of boomers moving through the system.

      • The statistic has remained constant for years.

    • jon

      But you’ve got to give props for the CDC citation, which in turn cites an 2016 NHTSA report. (2016 is respectably recent for statistical data.)

    • jon
      • Jim in RF

        Doesn’t seem to jive given that arrests have fallen from 42k to 25k; and base of drivers has probably increased. Pulling data from DPS data here: https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/ooc/news-releases/Pages/drunk-driving-related-deaths.aspx
        Both could be true, but would take a big shift from multiples being arrested to first timers, and my conjecture on those dropping out of the license pool being very wrong.

        • You’re going to have to show me the math you’re doing because I see annual statistics and the 1 in 7 refers to the percent of all drivers who have had a DUI conviction at any time.

          • jon

            Gentlemen I think you are both right.

            The rest of page 18 in the document I linked above says something ot the effect that people used to be able to have them removed from their records after a number of years, and that is no longer the case….

            With a change like that happening, you’d expect the number to go up for a generation of drivers, but if it’s remained the same then the amount of DUIs has likely gone down (consistent with Jim’s statement) but rate at which people are falling off the list has likely gone down too…

            Of course enforcement has probably varied over the years too…

            My main takeaway is that a stat without full context can mean a lot of things…

          • // My main takeaway is that a stat without full context can mean a lot of things…

            One in 7 Minnesota drivers has had a DUI conviction .

            What exactly is the context you think is missing here?

          • jon

            Here is what DPS says
            “1 in 7 licensed drivers has an incident on record.”

            What context do you feel you need to remove to make your point, and disregard any numbers that don’t agree with it?

          • Again, I contact DPS every year with this specific question and I get the specific answer from their media person that I wrote.

            But, you found something on Google? Oh.

          • As of this afternoon, here is the latest data as supplied by Scott Wasserman, the public information officer of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety:

            One in Seven people with a Minnesota license have a DWI on record.

            Eleven percent of all Minnesota residents have a DWI on record.

          • Jack

            One in seven is 14% for those who have a license.

            Sad statistics all the way around.

          • It’s also the statistic that — whenever cited on NewsCut — people try to disprove the most, which I think also is a testament to this state’s denial of an otherwise obvious problem.

          • Jack

            That could be the case.

            Everyone for the sake of the greater good, please have a non-drinking and non-using sober driver if you are drinking or otherwise impaired.

            Do what you want with your own life but don’t affect the rest of us.

          • jon

            So DPS is a reliable source… but only over the phone, not in the 81 page cited report from the same department?

            Bullshit.

          • First, watch your language.

            Second, if you want to explain the math you’re using, go right ahead.

            Third. DPS is a reliable source. And seeking clarification from a provider of data is a legitimate exercise of gaining knowledge.

          • jon

            I explained the math… but I’ll give it another shot because the fact that you are asking means I failed to explain it well.

            People who have a DUI conviction on record (A)
            People who have a license (B)

            A/B = 1/7

            So far so good?

            But how does that number change over time?
            The number of people each year who get a first time DUI (F)
            Number of people each year who have a DUI on record and loose their license (death, old age, legal proceedings, etc.) (G)
            Number of people who had it removed from their record (H)

            total number of people each year loosing license (P)
            Total number of people each year getting a license (Q)

            and finally last years A and B (A1 and B1)

            so this year A=A1+F-G-H
            and B=B1+P-Q

            in the past H would have been a value greater than 0, now it is always 0 the only way for A to shrink is for G > F but in the past it was G+H > F

            People were once able to age out of the system by waiting 7,10,15 years and they were no longer on record… now they need to die, or loose their license some other way…

            This is consistent with the data in table 3.04 most drivers with a “incident” on record are between 20 and 34 (53% if you do the math)… it’s not an even distribution like you’d expect under the current laws (with consistent enforcement)… but people in their 60’s probably got their misdeeds in their 20’s removed from their records (H) at some point. Doesn’t mean they had fewer DUIs (though enforcement likely varied) just that it’s not on record any more.

            The number of first time DUIs issued has to go down in order to keep the population the same, because the average life of a first time DUI on a record went from 7,10,15 years to 50 years… means we need to cut the number by a factor of 7,5,3 in order to keep it at 1/7 rather than it going up to 1/6.

            .

            The message here is over time it’s changed what it means to be “on record” it’s not just 7,10,15 years it’s pretty much life time now (~50-60 years) so in order for the number to stay the same year over year, the number of first time DUIs issued each year has to go down (population growth is going to take a bit of a bite into how fast the number has to go down… but probably not a factor of 3-7 but maybe enough that a factor of 2 (~43k to ~25k) would be enough to keep the 1/7 the same over time.)

          • OK, so we’re not disputing the 1/7 number. What is the dispute? And what are the specific numbers you’re using in your formula?

          • jon

            I can’t say what the dispute is… you are the one saying that despite DPS putting context around the 1/7 number in their reports, that it doesn’t need context.
            You are the one saying that the DPS report on google isn’t as legitimate as some one reading that same report to you over the phone.

            Why are you disputing bob?
            Are you trying to defend the 1/7 sound bite so hard that you ended up attacking it?

            Here are the numbers I’ve been using… I’m not going to explain them again because you’ve made it pretty clear that I’m not a trustworthy source of information in your eyes:

            https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/ots/reports-statistics/Pages/impaired-driving-facts.aspx

            Years worth of them…
            1/7 has been in them since ’09 newest one is ’15…
            Number of DUIs issued per year has fallen since it’s peak around ’06…

            I’ll warn you though, reading through those reports is going to lead to understanding, the kind that will help you answer questions like Jims for “why can the number of DUIs issued per year fall and the 1/7 number remain the same for years?” rather than just demanding math and numbers to support questions.

          • // , that it doesn’t need context.

            That’s not at all what I said. What I asked was what context it is you think is missing?

            One in seven Minnesotans has a DUI. That seems like a simple fact with plenty of context to me.

            If you believe that number is incorrect and the DPS is wrong. If you believe, for example, that only 6 do…. then it seems as though you should provide the data that shows that to be the case.

            But for the record, that’s not context.

          • Jack Ungerleider

            Since the question here is numbers and I like to play with numbers, this is how you get to the 1:7 statistic based on the document you linked.

            Page 18: 619,319 drivers have an impaired incident on their record.

            Page 19: Table 3.01 Census Bureau estimates
            2015 Population Total: 5,420,379
            2015 Population 0-14 years of age: 1,066,261
            2015 Population 15+ years of age: 4,354,118

            4,354,118/619,319 = 7.03

            For good measure: 619,319/5,420,379 = 0.114 or 11.4% of the total population, which is the figure sited on page 18 of the document.

          • Jim in RF

            My point is that I question their math since the numerator has dropped a lot and the denominator has probably increased. The ‘at any time’ is the confounding part as its cumulative, but those with the highest probability (older people have had more opportunities), age out of the model. Also, I’ve heard that some bureaucracies have made errors at times.

          • Again, what math are you using to come up with your answer? I’ll be happy to pass it along for their inspection.

    • I check with DPS every year because it’s my favorite statistic.

  • Tyler

    Bring on the self-driving cars.

  • Barton

    This is beyond infuriating.

    When she finally kills someone, will that person’s relatives be able to sue the prosecutors for failing to act appropriately before?

  • Adam Best

    Unless something extremely irregular has been decided by the judge, the terms of her probation will require that she has regular, sober, check-ins with her probation officer. Also that she is prohibited from drinking alcohol, or having alcohol in her system. Any violation of these terms would result in incarceration. So if she truly will not stop drinking, there’s a good chance that she’ll end up in jail before she kills someone.
    One more point: I’m willing to bet serious money Ms. Schleicher is white. I doubt an African-American woman with an identical record would’ve been shown such leniency.
    Racial bias in law enforcement has broader negative consequences than just those of individual tragedies; it’s everyone’s problem.

  • Christin Crabtree

    Alcoholism is such a tragic disease. Court ordered access to recovery and treatment coupled with in car breath monitor/limited drivers license seem pretty common in Hennepin Cty; we do no favors to any party involved without taking action and treating chemical dependency as the public health issue that it is.

  • KTFoley

    The Rochester Post-Bulletin article tells a detailed and sympathetic story of her efforts to comply with orders and keep/regain her eleven children after her arrests. This woman is struggling, hard, on every front.

    I checked the Chicago Sun-Times article and was surprised to find she was passed was driving her own car at the time of her latest arrest. (“… officers found her passed out behind the wheel of her 2005 Nissan Maxima at the Amstar gas station ….”) She had no license last year but now she has a car? That might just be an editing oversight, similar to saying that she was both passed out and trying to fill her gas tank with the wrong fuel.

    But if it was a car she owns, and she lives in MN, I am curious why she wouldn’t have have been required to have whiskey plates and a breathalyzer/ignition lock after her arrest in Rochester in October 2017? And why wouldn’t Illinois have issued a similar order this time around?

    At this point in her life, I’d hope for a judge who could navigate the slippery slope of passing sentence based on history. I’d hope for a decision that even if this individual charge doesn’t mandate an ignition lock, the pattern would demand it to protect herself, her children, and everyone else on the road.

    • I think this is the nut of the whole thing. This is a health issue being fought by people ill equipped. As for the court and, perhaps more important, the prosecutor, the sooner she can be out of their juristiction, the sooner she becomes someone else’s problem.

      Which is the problem.

  • Bronco Billy

    The DNR will confiscate and auction an owners boat and truck for just one fish caught illegally right? But get 11 DUIs and get a slap on the wrist.

  • The Resistance

    As a nation we have chosen to outsource untreated mental health issues to the law enforcement and legal systems which are ill equipped to deal with them.

    It’s a penny wise, pound foolish choice we have made. And it will be the children and potential drunk driving victims who will suffer the most.

  • Jimbo

    Bob Collins: your response to Jon was rather juvenile. He is wasn’t challenging your stalking horse statistic of 1:7 Minnesotans having a DUI on their record (which is appalling by the way) he was suggesting that the change in expungement practices and the DPS own data showing a 28% drop in yearly DUI convictions from 2000 to 2016 (40% drop from 2006 to 2016 so obviously some volatility in the data but last 10 years seems to show a definite declining trend) shows we are making progress as a population. But if records are no longer expunged then despite the drop in new DUIs, the 1:7 statistic is less likely to change because the numerator never shrinks until we get to the point of deaths of those with DUI > new DUIs which won’t happen for a while because the expungement change hasn’t been in place that long. In addition to the 1:7 stat, we should cite how many drivers each year get a DUI which HAS dropped a lot, about in half since 2006. Also the 1:7 stat does not mean the same thing IMHO because someone with a DUI in the last 7yrs is different than someone with a DUI 15 yrs ago in terms of how much this reflects on their personal choices (people mature a lot in 15yrs), their perspective and willingness to support tougher laws despite themselves having a conviction. Anyway, you can admit someone has an interesting point without attacking them. You are working for MPR not Fox.

    • Jimbo

      Having said all of that, the primary point of your article: we do not take DUI seriously enough nor punish those that get a DUI, especially those with multiple DUIs, severely enough, was spot on accurate. To that I would add that more generally, we do not punish those that behave poorly behind the wheel (hurt or kills peds or bikers or even other drivers) severely enough — just last week there was a report of a cyclist being killed by a driver and left for dead and only getting 4yrs. NUTS.

    • Well, actually the number is likely to remain the same because the DPS acknowledges that the 1:7 stat is probably too low because records were once expunged and are not included in the current statistic.

      thank you for your opinion.