Cops: Dad used 9-year-old as "designated driver"

BROWNSTOWN TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- A Detroit-area man had his 9-year-old daughter drive him to the store because he had apparently been drinking, police said Monday, and surveillance video from a gas station shows him telling a clerk that his daughter was his "designated driver."

Brownstown Township Detective Lt. Robert Grant said the girl was sitting behind the wheel in a child's booster seat before 3 a.m. on Oct. 8, when an officer opened the driver's side door of the full-sized panel van her father uses for work. He said she was surprised when police pulled her over.

She said to the officer, "What did you stop me for? I was driving good," Grant told the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News.

Someone called police after spotting the pair stopped at the gas station. The caller watched the girl get in the driver's seat and pull the vehicle onto the road. She drove a couple miles before police pulled her over.

The videotape obtained by The Associated Press shows the van pulling up to the station and walking in with his daughter. He told an unseen clerk that she was driving him around because he had been drinking.

"I got a designated driver," the man said.

The AP is not naming the father in order to protect the identity of his daughter.

The girl told police that her father had been drinking whiskey all night. She said he had allowed her to drive before.

The father, who told officers he was teaching his daughter to drive, was arrested and refused a Breathalyzer test, Grant said. He was charged with second- and fourth-degree child abuse during an Oct. 10 arraignment. He was ordered to have no contact with his daughter.

His preliminary examination is scheduled for Tuesday.

He also was charged with being a habitual offender and could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison if convicted. The habitual offender charge stems from convictions on four previous felonies, including receiving and concealing stolen property and unarmed robbery, Grant said.

He was convicted of driving while intoxicated in connection with an October 2007 crash in Wyandotte and had his license restricted for a year, Michigan Secretary of State spokesman Fred Woodhams told the Free Press.

The girl was turned over to her maternal grandfather when police could not reach her mother. The girl's parents are separated.

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