- Associated Press - Friday, May 16, 2014

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - The Nebraska Supreme Court on Friday upheld the convictions and prison sentence of a Grand Island man prosecuted for two separate drunken driving incidents weeks apart in 2012.

Daniel Matit, also known as Yai Bol, was convicted of a fourth offense of driving under the influence for a March 5, 2012, incident in Lincoln. Matit, 25, was later convicted of refusing to submit to a chemical test and driving while his license was revoked for a May 7, 2012, incident, also in Lincoln. He was sentenced to two to three years in prison, and his driver’s license was revoked for 15 years.

Lincoln police testified that in the March incident, an officer saw Matit get in and out of a car and start it several times outside an apartment complex on a city right of way between a sidewalk and the street, although he did not move the car. The officer said he approached Matit after seeing him leave the vehicle, urinate on a tree, and get back in the car. Matit was arrested after the officer determining he was drunk. Matit’s blood-alcohol content was later measured at .216, more than twice the legal driving limit.

In the May incident, an officer testified he saw Matit driving erratically while making a U-turn and park 3 feet from a curb. Matit was again arrested on suspicion of driving drunk, although he refused to submit to blood alcohol testing.

In his appeals, Matit argued that he should not have been found guilty in the March incident, because he was on private property and had not actually driven his car. Regarding the May incident, Matit argued that police did not have probable cause to question and arrest him. He also argued that his prison sentence was excessive.

On Friday, the state's high court found that his sentence was within the limits set by state law and that police had easily shown they had good reason to stop him in the May incident.

As for Matit’s argument that he was on private property and did not operate a vehicle while drunk, the state Supreme Court said case law is on prosecutors’ side.

“We have recognized that starting a vehicle is an act within the meaning of ‘operating’ a motor vehicle,” Nebraska Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Stephan wrote for the court.

Because the car was in a city right of way, police were right to find that Matit was operating the car “on a roadway or other area to which the public had access,” as defined by state drunken driving laws.

Neither Matit’s public defender, nor the Lancaster County prosecutor immediately returned messages Friday seeking comment.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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