An employee of the Rosebud-Lott Independent School District was arrested earlier this week on a felony charge of driving while intoxicated after police say he was driving drunk at – with between 40 or 50 witnesses in the back seat. Yep, Ralph Ucciferro was employed by the Central Texas school district as a bus driver, according to this article from television station KXXV.
None of the children – who ranged from kindergarten students to high school seniors – were injured in the incident. But the story might have had a tragic outcome if one of the students hadn’t used her cell phone to contact her mother about what she said was Ucciferro’s reckless driving. The mother contacted police, who pulled the bus over and administered a sobriety test to Ucciferro. Some of the children had been on the bus for as long as 45 minutes, the article said.
The reason the charge is a felony rather than a misdemeanor is because there were children in the vehicle. Police said Ucciferro might be charged with other offenses, depending on the outcome of the investigation, the article said.
School officials said Ucciferro, 55, had been a bus driver for the district for 17 years and never failed the random drug tests that are administered on a monthly basis.
It's not very often you see an offense committed in front of 40-50 witnesses. While some of the children may be too young to be reliable witnesses, there were some older kids who recognized something was wrong. Thankfully a tragedy was avoided, and nothing bad happened.
Ucciferro's problems may only be kidding. The story says there may be additional charges. That would probably be endangering a child - also a felony. You can be guilty of that offense if you engage in conduct that places a child younger than 15 years of age in imminent danger of death, bodily injury or physical or mental impairment. The question will be whether the kids were in "imminent" danger.
You may wonder how the offense is a felony - DWI is usually a misdemeanor. However, driving while intoxicated can be a state jail felony if there is a passenger younger than 15 years of age in the vehicle.
I'm guessing Mr. Uciferro needs to start looking for a new career.