South Georgia legislator charged with DUI

State Rep. Chuck Sims, R-Ambrose, is facing charges of driving under the influence, the second time the lawmaker has been charged with DUI in the past three years.

Sim was arrested in Coffee County shortly before midnight April 2 after a Douglas police officer reported seeing Sims’ car accelerate and slide onto the shoulder of one of the city’s main highways. He was booked into the Douglas County jail and later was released on $1,487 bond.

“Just as I do not intend to seek any special treatment, I hope that I am not unfairly pre-judged based on rumor and speculation,” Sims said in a statement. “I am confident that as facts of this situation are revealed, the interests of justice will be served.”

Sims introduced legislation this year seeking to make it difficult for police to cite anyone leaving a bar or restaurant with an alcohol-related offense.

He also raised some eyebrows in February when, right before a vote on lobbyist gift reform, he compared the plight of state lawmakers to the Crucifixion.

“Somebody has the perception that we are unethical because we are in politics,” he said. “You know, was Jesus Christ unethical? Everybody said he was. They hung him on the cross.”

Sims went on to congratulate the House for its high ethical example.

“There’s no one person in this body that I think is unethical,” he said. ” … I want tell you there is not another body anywhere that I feel is as honest as this body is.”

House spokesman Marshall Guest, while noting that DUI is “a serious charge,” declined to comment on Sims’ future standing in the House.

Sims was first elected in 1996 as a Democrat before changing to the Republican party in 2004. He has a reputation for entertaining his colleagues with down-home humor and homespun observations.

The details of Sims’ arrest last week are not clear. A brief narrative on the Douglas Police Department report does not say where Sims was coming from or where he was going; nor does it say anything about his demeanor other than he “appeared to be under the influence.”

“I don’t think they got into that,” said Police Chief Gary Casteloes.

Sims refused to take a breath test to determine his blood-alcohol content, which is his right. If he is convicted, however, he could face stiffer penalties for refusing to take the test.

Sims was arrested in April 2010 in downtown Atlanta when an officer reported seeing his white Lincoln Town Car swerving.

“Mr. Sims handed me his state ID card when I asked for his driver’s license,” the Atlanta officer noted in the report. The report said Sims was slurring his words and seemed “very scared and nervous” and told the officer he had two beers and some wine earlier in the evening.

Sims blew a .105 on a breath test. The limit for DUI in Georgia is .08.

After the arrest, Sims released a statement saying he was “truly sorry for any embarrassment that I have caused.”

Sims pleaded guilty to reckless driving on Nov. 24, 2011. The DUI charge and some lesser traffic offenses were dismissed.

Sims would not comment in depth about either arrest, but he did say the charges in Atlanta “proved out later … that it was not true.”

In this year’s legislative session, Sims introduced a bill that would allow people charged with alcohol-related offenses while leaving a bar or restaurant to claim entrapment. He also introduced a bill requiring bars and restaurants to have breath tests available for patrons.

Neither bill attracted any co-sponsors or moved out of committee during the session, which ended last month.

Sims said those bills were for the protection of college students who he said were falling prey to local police.

“They are even being arrested getting into cabs going home, getting harassed,” he said.

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