Bruce Springsteen pleaded guilty Wednesday to drinking shots of tequila at a New Jersey federal park last year, but prosecutors dropped charges of DWI and reckless driving after he was found to be well within the legal limit.
The Boss, 71, was arrested on November 14 near the Sandy Hook Lighthouse in Gateway National Recreation Area, a federal park along the northern New Jersey coast.
He was detained by park rangers on charges of DWI, reckless driving and drinking in a closed area after he was seen pulling over on his motorbike to pose for selfies with fans and accepting a shot of Patron tequila.
During a virtual court arraignment Wednesday, prosecutors said they could not meet the legal burden for drunken driving against Springsteen because his blood alcohol level was found to be .02 – well below the state’s threshold of .08.
Wearing a dark blazer, sweater and collared shirt, Springsteen sat next to his lawyer Mitchell Ansell during the appearance before Magistrate Judge Anthony Mautone.
He answered a series of brief questions from Ansell, acknowledging he had been drinking alcohol inside the park in the moments leading up to his arrest.
‘I had two small shots of tequila,’ Springsteen calmly confirmed for the judge.
After the Thunder Road singer entered his guilty plea to the drinking in a closed area charge, Mautone ordered him to pay a fine of $500, with additional costs of $40.
‘I am going to impose nothing but a fine,’ the judge said, adding that Springsteen has an incredibly clean driving history dating back to 1973, with only three violations, including the use of a handheld phone.
‘Rarely would you see a driver’s abstract so devoid of any entries. I’m convinced a fine is the appropriate sentence in this case,’ Mautone said.
The judge then asked Springsteen when he would be able to pay the fine by, to which he responded with a smile: ‘I think I can pay that right away’.
The federal court then granted the prosecution’s request to dismiss the additional two charges of operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and reckless driving.
Wearing a dark blazer, sweater and collared shirt, Springsteen sat next to his lawyer Mitchell Ansell during the appearance before Magistrate Judge Anthony Mautone on Wednesday
Springsteen was arrested near the lighthouse (shown above) in the Gateway National Recreation Area on Sandy Hook back on November 14, 2020 and charged with DWI, reckless driving and drinking in a close area. The first to charges were dismissed, and he pleaded guilty to drinking in a closed area, and was fined $500
In a statement after the hearing, Springsteen’s attorney said his client was ‘pleased’ with the outcome of the case.
‘The prosecutor was unable to provide the necessary evidence and facts as it related to the charge of Driving under the Influence (DUI) and Reckless Driving and therefore, dismissed both of those charges,’ Ansell said.
‘Mr Springsteen, who has no previous criminal record of any kind, voluntarily plead guilty to a violation of consuming an alcoholic beverage in a closed area, agreeing to a fine of $500. We want to thank the Court and will have no further comment at this time.’
Alcohol has been banned entirely from the Gateway National Park since 2019, and is prohibited from being brought onto its beaches, parking lots, park grounds, picnic areas and boating docks.
When Springsteen was approached by the park ranger on November 14, he admitted he’d consumed two shots of tequila in 20 minutes but refused to take an initial breathalyzer test.
In his report, the ranger wrote that Springsteen smelt strongly of alcohol’, had ‘glassy eyes’, and was ‘visibly swaying’ back and forth.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Assistant US Attorney Adam Baker confirmed that Springsteen had refused to take a breath test at the scene, put pointed out he was not required to do so by law.
He later underwent a blood alcohol test back at the rangers’ station, as legally required, where his blood alcohol was found to be .02.
Under New Jersey state law, Baker said with such a blood alcohol level Springsteen would not even be considered ‘preemptively impaired’. While state law does not apply in federal cases, Baker says prosecutors look to such laws to help guide them in federal disputes.
The judge (top right) asked Springsteen (bottom right) when he would be able to pay the fine by, to which he responded with a smile: ‘I think I can pay that right away’
Bruce Springsteen (above in 2016) refused a breath test and ‘strongly smelt of alcohol’ when he was arrested in November for DWI while riding his motorbike, a park ranger report said
While Springsteen’s blood alcohol was found to be well within the legal threshold, according to both state and federal law, an arresting officer can still charge a suspect with a level below .08 if they observe sufficient signs of impairment.
It’s unclear if that was the case in Springsteen’s arrest. The New Jersey Park Service has not yet responded to a DailyMail.com request for comment on the matter.
Those close to Springsteen, however, had previously called into question the legitimacy of the star’s arrest.
Speaking to CNN earlier this month, one source said: ‘When this is all resolved, I think, people are gonna have some serious doubts about the seriousness of this, especially when the actual details of this are revealed, including the blood alcohol level.
‘I don’t know why they stopped him,’ they continued. ‘I mean technically you’re not allowed to drink in a state park and I don’t know, maybe, if a policeman sees somebody drinking and doesn’t give them a ticket, they lose their job.’
Drinking at Gateway National Recreation Area in Sandy Hook, New Jersey (seen above) is strictly prohibited, according to its website
A DWI in a national park is a misdemeanor federal offense, carrying a maximum sentence of six months in jail and fines of up to $5,000. Probation can also be up to five years, according to Freeburg Law (pictured above is a map of the Sandy Hook peninsula)
In the park ranger’s report, authored by R. L. Hayes, the officer said he had witnessed Springsteen ‘consume a shot of Patron tequila’ before getting on his motorcycle to ‘start the engine’.
Hayes said he then informed the New Jersey-native that drinking inside Gateway National Recreation Area is ‘prohibited’.
‘The Patron bottle that the shot was poured out of was completely empty (750ml),’ the ranger continued. ‘
‘I asked Springsteen if he was leaving and he confirmed that he was going to drive out of the park.’
The ranger also said he ‘observed four out of six clues on the horizontal gaze nystagmus test.’
‘[Springsteen] was visibly swaying back and forth while I observed his eyes,’ Hayes wrote.
‘I observed five out of eight clues on the walk and turn test. Springsteen took 45 total steps during the walk and turn instead of the instructed 19. [He] refused to provide a sample on the preliminary breath test.’
However, the incident was first reported just days after 96.4million viewers watched him star in an ad for Jeep during this year’s Super Bowl (above)
A DWI in a national park is a misdemeanor federal offense, carrying a maximum sentence of six months in jail and fines of up to $5,000. Probation can also be up to five years.
Springsteen, who previously owned a home in Rumson, a few towns from Sandy Hook, has filmed several music videos and other projects at the federal park, including the cover of 1987’s Tunnel of Love
Springsteen, who previously owned a home in Rumson, a few towns from Sandy Hook, has filmed several music videos and other projects at the federal park.
For the cover of his 1987 album Tunnel of Love, Springsteen used the park’s beach as his backdrop. Gateway was also the setting for video of his solo track ‘Brilliant Disguise’, and featured in his 2014 short film, Hunter of Invisible Game.
News of Springsteen’s arrest took three months to come to light. It’s currently unclear why.
However, the incident was first reported just days after 96.4million viewers watched him star in an ad for Jeep during the Super Bowl earlier this month – his first ever commercial campaign.
It was not immediately clear why the Born in the USA singer’s arrest took almost three months to come to light (Pictured: Springsteen chugs back a fan’s half finished beer during a concert in Philadelphia, in 2012)
Jeep later pulled the ad from circulation, in light of the controversy surround his arrest.
In a statement to DailyMail.com at the time, Jeep said: it ‘would be inappropriate for us to comment on the details of a matter we have only read about and we cannot substantiate.’
‘It’s also right that we pause our Big Game commercial until the actual facts can be established.’
‘Its message of community and unity is as relevant as ever. As is the message that drinking and driving can never be condoned.’
It is unclear whether Jeep were aware of Springsteen’s legal woes at the time of production.
A spokesperson has not yet returned a DailyMail.com request for comment as to whether they have plans to re-air the ad, in light of Wednesday’s outcome.
Earlier this week, Springsteen launched a new Spotify podcast series with former President Barack Obama titled, Renegades: Born in the USA, in which the two public figures discuss their ‘lives, music and enduring love of America.’
In the second episode of the eight-part series, Obama, 59, revealed that he once broke a classmate’s nose after they called him a racial slur during a locker room bust-up.
Obama, 59, opened up publicly for the first time about the incident in the second episode of his new Spotify podcast with singer Bruce Springsteen, titled Renegades: Born in the USA.
Spotify announced Renegades: Born in the USA on Monday. The eight-episode series will see Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen talk about their lives, childhoods and the state of affairs in America
‘Listen, when I was in school, I had a friend. We played basketball together,’ the 44th US President began during a wide-ranging conversation about race.
‘And one time we got into a fight and he called me a c***,’ he said, before quipping of his Aloha State upbringing, ‘Now first of all, ain’t no c***s in Hawaii, right?’
‘It’s one of those things that — where he might not even known what a c*** was — what he knew was, “I can hurt you by saying this”.’
Obama then laughed as he added: ‘And I remember I popped him in the face and broke his nose. And we were in the locker room.’
‘Well done,’ Springsteen responded.
The Boss then told Obama he witnessed similar incidents involving his close friend, the late saxophonist Clarence Clemons, who was black.
The Born In the USA singer said he and Clemons had been in a club one night when someone called Clemons the ‘n-word’.
Springsteen said he saw how upset Clemons was about the incident, especially because the person who used the racial epithet was an acquaintance of his E Street Band.
The Born In the USA singer said he and Clemons (left) had been in a club one night when someone called Clemons the ‘n-word’
The 71-year-old then recalled a time when they’d been touring the Ivory Coast together, and ‘came out to a stadium of entirely black faces.’
‘And we stand there for a moment,’ Springsteen said, ‘and Clarence comes over and says, ‘Well, now you know how it feels.”‘
Renegades: Born in the USA is a new Spotify podcast series accessible for paid subscribers and free users.
The first two episodes were released by Spotify on Monday. The first is titled Outsiders: An Unlikely Friendship and is about how the pair met.
The second is called American Skin: Race in the United States. There will be eight episodes in total, all of which will be released over the next few weeks.
It’s unclear how much the pair were paid for the series. It was recorded last year at Springsteen’s home in New Jersey and was made by the Obamas’ production company, Higher Ground.