Multiple felony charges for drunken driving and a count of resisting police could threaten the elected seat of a Hobart Township board member.
If convicted of any of the three pending felonies — involving three separate cases — Hobart Township Board member David Scheeringa, who recently filed for re-election, immediately would be barred from holding elected office under Indiana law.
Charges he now faces result from a history of multiple drunken driving arrests coupled with prior convictions, the county prosecutor confirmed.
Scheeringa, 51, is scheduled for a hearing Wednesday morning before Lake County Superior Court Judge Julie Cantrell on five pending cases dating back to 2014. The hearing will determine if the cases are eligible for transfer to Cantrell's veterans court, which offers treatment and the potential of alternative sentencing for veterans, Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter said Tuesday.
Hobart police records show all four incidents occurred in the city, the most recent June 28, when Scheeringa was charged with a felony for resisting law enforcement and misdemeanors for OWI and endangering a person.
According to court records, Scheeringa was observed by a police officer pulling into traffic in a red pickup truck, without using signals or headlights, near a bar in the 500 block of Third Street.
While being followed by the officer south on Main Street, Scheeringa's vehicle crossed over the double yellow center line on three occasions, causing oncoming traffic to swerve out of the way to avoid head-on collisions, the officer reported.
Despite the officer activating lights and sirens, Scheeringa continued to drive away until he eventually pulled into a hardware store parking lot, records show. Police said they noticed a strong odor of alcohol and that Scheeringa was unsteady on his feet.
Records show Scheeringa refused sobriety tests and his license was suspended at the time.
When reached by The Times on Tuesday, Scheeringa said he kept driving further south on Main Street into the parking lot because there was no place to pull over on Main Street.
"That would have created more of a hazard than what was on hand," he said. "I was surprised by that charge."
Allegedly backed into a police car
About five months earlier on Jan. 18, 2017, Scheeringa also was arrested on charges of operating while intoxicated and OWI while endangering a person.
A blood test administered in that case showed Scheeringa had a blood alcohol content at the time of .251 — more than three times the legal limit, court records allege.
A Hobart police officer reportedly spotted Scheeringa crossing the center line and weaving from side to side in a red pickup truck near the intersection of Wisconsin Street and Old Ridge Road. At some point after he was pulled over, Scheeringa, whose license was suspended at the time, allegedly backed his pickup into the front end of the officer’s squad car, police reports state.
Police said they noted on Scheeringa a strong odor of alcohol, bloodshot eyes, flushed red face, unsteady balance and uncooperative behavior. He also refused balance and field sobriety tests, police noted.
Police also said they found an open container of juice that was emitting a strong odor of alcohol in the truck.
Up and down the street doing "burnouts"
Another arrest of Scheeringa occured April 27, 2016, in which he was charged with a felony OWI for having a prior OWI conviction. In this incident, records show Hobart police were dispatched to the 700 block of 14th Street for a possible intoxicated driver in a red truck.
A witness told police Scheeringa was driving up and down the street and doing “burnouts” trying to back into a driveway.
Police said Scheeringa had mumbled speech when approached by a neighbor on the block.
After exhibiting an apparent drunken and hostile demeanor, Scheeringa was taken to the Hobart Police Department for sobriety tests under video surveillance, police reported.
Suspected intoxicated driver behind grocery store
On June 25, 2015, Scheeringa was in a red pickup truck with the engine running when Hobart police were called regarding a suspected intoxicated driver behind a grocery store in the 7700 block of 37th Avenue, court records state.
Police said they observed an open and perspiring can of beer in the center console cup holder of the truck while speaking to Scheeringa.
Before complying with an officer's order to exit the truck, Scheeringa stashed a beer can behind the driver’s seat, police said.
The officer detected a strong odor of alcohol on Scheeringa’s breath, slurred speech and mumbling. Police said Scheeringa would not consent to sobriety tests, was uncooperative throughout the stop, unfriendly and continually invoked his position as an elected official.
He was arrested on a felony OWI charge because of priors.
Scheeringa was arrested on the same charge on May 5, 2014, when records state Scheeringa was seen by a Hobart police officer driving a white truck in the 1700 block of 37th Avenue.
Police said he disregarded a traffic signal and failed to signal while changing lanes. Records show he failed field sobriety tests and registered a .147 on a portable breath test, which isn't admissible in court.
Police said he refused an official blood-alcohol test and was arrested.
Scheeringa, who also said he is an Army veteran, told The Times he believes he will be going through Lake County veterans court and there are "a lot of issues that were going on that created those problems."
He also said any of the issues with the arrests have nothing to do with his effectiveness on the Township Board.
"I've already done two terms there, and we've accomplished a lot of things," he said.
Prosecutor Carter said the case against Scheeringa hasn’t officially been approved to be handled in Cantrell’s veterans court.
Carter said as of Tuesday, he believes his office will oppose the case transfer from traditional criminal court to the alternative veterans court because of Scheeringa’s history of multiple prior offenses.