Niles woman gets prison time for drunk driving charges

Published 11:40 am Monday, October 30, 2023

NILES — A Niles woman is going to prison after being convicted of third-offense drunk driving and sentenced Monday in Berrien County Trial Court.

Bethany Janel Daniel, 35, of Niles, pleaded guilty to third offense drunk driving and was sentenced to 12 months to five years in prison and $325 in fines and costs. She has credit for 67 days already served.

The incident occurred Aug. 24 in Buchanan Township.

Daniel was sentenced to a concurrent prison term of 12 months to five years, credit for 67 days served and $578 in fines and costs still owed for violating her probation from a 2022 third offense drunk driving conviction.

Berrien County Assistant Prosecutor Jerry Vigansky called Daniel’s most recent drunk driving conviction as a “pretty scary situation”. He noted that her blood alcohol level was over twice the legal limit and she was driving left of the center line on the highway.

“I don’t think she gets it,” he said. “She was on probation for drunk driving when this incident happened. Thankfully no one was hurt or injured. The only thing we can do is protect her and the public.”

Defense attorney Scott Sanford presented a different view of Daniel. He said that she had completed 90 days of tether and received mental health and substance abuse treatment during her 2022 probation.

For her part, Daniel said she had been born addicted to alcohol and has a high tolerance for alcohol. She said she had been working and getting counseling before the latest drunk driving incident.

Berrien County Trial Judge Jennifer Smith said what concerned her was the fact that Daniel continues to drink and drive and put herself and others in danger. She said she felt Daniel was using the fact she was working long hours as an excuse for her actions.

“It seems to me that you do what needs to be done when you have to,” the judge said. “But when you believe someone is not looking, you do things you’re not supposed to do. I could put you on Scram (tether) and inpatient treatment but none of it will matter if you do just what you have to get through and continue to put people in danger.”

Judge Smith departed from the sentencing guidelines of zero to 11 months in jail when she sentenced Daniel to prison. She said she considered continuing Daniel’s probation in the first case and putting her on another term in the second case but believed it reasonable and proportionate to depart upwards given the circumstances.