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Drunken driving arrest a wake up call for Park Rapids man

Nathan Placentia and Ken Hill discussed their experiences with drinking and driving and the costs and memories associated with them. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

BY Sarah smith

Nathan Placentia remembers the bravado feeling, thinking he could keep up, shot for shot, with his partying buddies.

“You don’t want to be the guy that says, ‘No more,’” he recalled over the weekend.

Long story short, he got nailed for drunken driving. It was March 18, 2013. He’d been celebrating St. Patrick’s Day and he’s not even Irish.

“I’d just moved from Alaska,” he recalled. In that remote state, there’s not much to do except drink, he said. “I carried that mentality here.”

He was nearly three times the legal alcohol limit when he got to jail. He served 30 days, leaving his daughter and a pregnant wife at home.

“I was the outcast,” he said of his jail experience. “I heard about how everybody hates the police, the prosecutors… How do you blame them?”

He’s actually grateful to Hubbard County Dep. Adam Williams for interrupting the downward spiral his life seemed to be on.

But it was the financial repercussions that shocked him. The initial fine and court costs were over $700.

Then there was the alcohol evaluation, the testing, the DUI class. He shelled out more money.

Then there was the cost to get his license back – and get insurance to cover him.

As a starting chef, he had to set his professional goals aside to take care of the personal ones.

He said he took a lot away from the DUI class, whereas his classmates objected to being in it.

“It’s a really good program,” he said. He had anger issues from his childhood that he learned were the root of his drinking.

That subconscious person came to the fore when he’d been drinking and fights were the norm.

“I came back with things I’d kept hidden,” he said. “I became aware of me, my behavior, why I drank.”

The night he was picked up for DUI, he’d gotten into a fight at the bar and took off. That’s when he got pulled over.

His new life hasn’t been stumble-free. Court records show a violation of his probation and Obstruction of the Legal Process conviction in April 2014.

“While I was in jail I thought what my wife and daughter were going through, how it affected everyone around me,” he reflected.

He joined the Vineyard Church and found the family he never had in his life as a foster kid.

A fellow church member, Ken Hill, had his own story to tell.

Hill witnessed a drunken driving crash 25 years ago that vividly remains with him today.

“I even remember the smell,” Hill says. “The whole thing plays in my mind like it was yesterday.”

He remembers racing to one driver’s aid only to be overcome with the smell of alcohol. He made the quick decision to assist the other driver, who’d done nothing wrong.

But it spooked Hill, who has never had a DUI.

Meanwhile, Placentia learned his lesson and agonizes over what he put his family through, diverting family finances to pay for his lapse in judgment.

He no longer drinks. He’s finally getting his chef business going, cooking for private events. He has a Facebook page advertising his services. He infuses different cultures in his food choices, mixing Italian with Middle Eastern foods.

He still can’t drive, he said.

He hates being chauffeured everywhere and carries a sticker on his Blazer that warns against drunken driving.

He compares his alcohol punishment to a “life restriction.”

“It’s like being grounded,” he said.

“I can’t promise 100 percent that I won’t drink again,” he said realistically. “But I know 100 percent I’ll make a better choice.”

He will call for a driver if he ever gets into that position again, he promised.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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