An Andover man must serve five months in jail after pleading guilty Monday in Salem Superior Court to a third offense of drunken driving as well as to driving negligently to endanger.
Joshua Rice, 41, of C2 Colonial Drive will be on probation for two years following his release, with the balance of a 2½-year jail term hanging over his head, Judge Salim Tabit ordered.
Rice was driving west on Route 110 in Amesbury about 2 a.m. on Aug. 18, 2018, when a state trooper noticed his Ford Explorer weaving and swerving back and forth across the center line, at one point nearly hitting another driver head on, prosecutor John Brennan told the judge.
When the trooper, Thomas Janeczak, stopped the sport utility vehicle, he noticed a strong odor of alcohol, said Brennan. Rice denied drinking, but he nearly fell during a field sobriety test, the prosecutor said.
Brennan had urged Tabit to send Rice to jail for the full 2½-year term, pointing to Rice's two prior drunken driving cases, in 1997 and 2005, saying that Rice poses a danger to the public.
Timothy Connors, Rice's attorney, argued that the age of those prior cases, which occurred when Rice was 18 and 26, and his compliance with pretrial conditions that included no use of alcohol for the past 18 months, show that Rice is not a danger when supervised.
Connors said his client has been sober since the August 2018 arrest. He urged the judge to go along with the minimum mandatory five months in jail, saying a longer term would lead to financial hardship for Rice's wife and child.
"I plan to do my time, then get back into the swing of things, get back to my wife and take care of my family," Rice told the judge right before sentencing.
Tabit said he was willing to go along with the defense's request only because Rice has done well while being supervised, as well as due to the age of the older cases.
After his jail term, Rice will be subject to random drug and alcohol tests and must wear an alcohol monitoring device.
Rice will also lose his license for eight years as a result of the conviction.