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Police stops that end with a drunk driving arrest frequently begin with the commission of a traffic offense. Donnell Rawlings, a comedian whose credits include being a cast member on the popular sketch comedy television program, "Chappelle's Show," brought attention to himself when police saw him driving in the wrong direction on a one-way street in New York City.

According to the charges filed by the police, the 46-year-old comedian was stopped by officers for driving in the wrong direction on a one-way street. Police added the drunk driving charge after a breath test revealed that the driver’s blood alcohol content level was 0.12 percent. The legal limit in New York is only 0.08 percent.

After plea negotiations, prosecutors offered a reduction of the charges to the offense of driving while impaired in exchange for a guilty plea. The plea would allow Rawlings to avoid the harsher penalties associated with the criminal conviction associated with drunk driving, but it still might create problems for Rawlings' professional career by restricting his ability to travel to Canada.

Rawlings and his attorney postponed a recent court proceeding to allow them to investigate further the way in which Canada will interpret a plea to driving while impaired.  They are concerned that DWI is a felony in Canada.

Because Canadian officials treat drunk driving convictions in New York as the equivalent of a felony under Canadian law, it could prevent Rawlings from crossing the border to perform there.

This case illustrates how far reaching the consequences of a drunk driving conviction can be. Drunk driving charges can affect a person’s personal and professional life in ways that might not be readily apparent at the time of a traffic stop.

Source: New York Daily News, "Donnell Rawlings, comedian famous for 'Chappelle's Show,' hoping for deal in drunk driving case," Shayna Jacobs, Aug. 20, 2014

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