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'Slap on the wrist': Ten time drunk driver's history raises questions about criminal justice system

Brian Patten of Indianapolis has 10 drunk driving convictions dating back to 1995 including four convictions in Marion County Indiana
Mothers Against Drunk Driving said placing passive drunk driving prevention technology into vehicles could potentially save 10,000 lives a year.
Posted at 4:01 PM, Jul 01, 2024

INDIANAPOLIS — The criminal justice system has allowed a 10-time convicted drunk driver to get behind the wheel again and again, WRTV Investigates has learned.

Brian Patten of Indianapolis has 10 drunk driving convictions dating back to 1995 including cases in Ohio, California and Oregon, plus four convictions in Marion County, Indiana.

His driving record shows the Indiana BMV has suspended his license 19 times, according to the state.

WRTV Investigates findings are prompting Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) to call for changes to our criminal justice system.

“I think it needs to be taken seriously,” said Denise Niblick, a program manager and advocate for MADD Indiana. “It’s just a matter of time until somebody is injured or killed.”

WRTV Investigates received a tip in April 2024

WRTV Investigates received a tip in April asking why a Marion County Court had just allowed Brian Patten to get behind the wheel, days after police in a nearby county arrested him for driving while suspended.

WRTV Investigates started digging.

Court records outline Patten’s convictions as follows:

  • 1995: Franklin County, Ohio— Operating Vehicle Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs
  • 1998: Franklin County, Ohio— Operating Motor Vehicle Intoxicated
  • 2002: Delaware, Ohio— Operating Motor Vehicle Intoxicated
  • 2011: Miami County, Ohio— Driving Under Influence of Alcohol or Drugs
  • 2009: Yamhill, Oregon-- Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants
  • 2013: San Diego County, California—Operating While Intoxicated
  • 2015: Marion County, Indiana— Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated Endangerment
  • 2017: Marion County, Indiana—Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated Endangerment
  • 2017: Marion County, Indiana—Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated Endangerment
  • 2020: Marion County, Indiana—Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated Endangerment

In his most recent conviction in 2020, Patten was driving drunk at the Indianapolis Airport and ran a stop sign, court records show.

On February 19, 2020, an appointed Marion County Magistrate, Mark Renner, sentenced Patten to home detention and probation, plus a two-year driver’s license suspension and drug and alcohol testing.


Records show Patten violated that probation months later, in 2021, after testing positive for cocaine and alcohol multiple times.

His driving record shows the Indiana BMV has suspended his license 19 times, most recently through 2030, said BMV spokesperson Melissa Hook.

Hendricks County arrests Patten in 2024

However, drunk driving convictions and license suspensions did not stop Patten from driving.

On February 2, 2024, a Plainfield Police officer was on routine patrol in the area of East Main Street and Plainfield Commons Drive when he observed a Kia Optima traveling south on Plainfield Commons Drive.

When the officer ran the license plate, he found the vehicle belonged to Brian Patten, a Habitual Traffic Violator, records show.

Patten was arrested and transported to the Hendricks County Jail, and his vehicle was towed, court records show.

Hendricks County prosecutors criminally charged Patten on February 6 with Operating a Vehicle as a Habitual Traffic Violator.

Patten petitions Marion County to drive in March 2024

Days later, on February 9, Patten filed a petition in Marion County Circuit Court to get specialized driving privileges.

Patten’s petition said his driver’s license suspension “creates an extreme hardship” in that he is unable to commute to and from attorney-client meetings, court dates and employment.

On March 4, Magistrate Lena Sanders held a hearing on Patten’s request.

WRTV Investigates obtained the court transcript, which shows he told the Magistrate he made a pact to never drink again and that he’s been sober since January 2021.

Marion County Justice Complex

“Once you beat it, it’s easy to beat."
Brian Patten in court on March 4

But remember, Patten violated his probation in late 2021 after failing drug and alcohol tests.

The court transcript shows no one at the hearing appeared to pick up on the discrepancy.

Prosecutors pushed for ignition interlock, which is a device that requires the driver to breathe into to start the court.

Magistrate Sanders agreed and granted Patten specialized driving privileges to drive to work and certain appointments.

“I am going to place you on ignition interlock, just like the two hearings before you will reevaluate in six months and see how things are going,” Magistrate Sanders said on March 4. “At that time, if you’re doing well, we may be able to remove it, but I think it would be helpful for you to attend some individual counseling. I understand AA it’s not for everybody.”

At that time, the Magistrate set a review hearing for September 4.

“This behavior can’t be allowed”: MADD pushes for change

The decision to allow Patten to get behind the wheel did not sit well with Mothers Against Drunk Driving of Indiana.

“This behavior can’t be allowed,” said Denise Niblick, a program manager and advocate for MADD Indiana. “It’s just a matter of time until there is a victim in these cases. Until society realizes this behavior has to change, we have to say enough is enough when it comes to alcohol being synonymous with driving.”

Denise Niblick with MADD Indiana

Niblick said the criminal justice system considers drunk driving a nonviolent crime.

“It’s kind of looked at as a behavior issue,” said Niblick. “Typically, the judgment is taking a class, maybe probation, it's a bit of a slap on the wrist."

WRTV Investigates shared Patten’s driving history with MADD.

“You know he’s been told this is illegal, this is dangerous to yourself to anyone in your path, it’s dangerous, and yet you continue to do that,” said Niblick. “To me that is a selfish behavior.”

Niblick also said while drunk drivers who hurt or kill people can face stiffer penalties, that’s often not the case for repeat drunk drivers who don’t hurt anyone.

“It’s a societal issue. It comes down to what we as a society are going to put up with.”
Denise Niblick

Niblick takes the issue to heart. Her sister was killed by a drunk driver in Hendricks County back in 2016.

“I would not wish the despair I have felt by losing my sister on my worst enemy,” said Niblick. “What every victim truly wants is for no one to ever feel this way again.”

MADD also points out that drunk driving can have financial impacts including property damage and taxpayer money to arrest and prosecute criminal cases.

“We should want our money to go to other things rather than people who continuously decide to act in this way,” said Niblick.

Despite 10 drunk driving convictions, Patten told the court the longest stint he’s spent behind bars is 90 days.

“We need to try something different that is going to hit home to them that this is unacceptable,” said Niblick.

Brian Patten is a wanted man

Once Marion County granted Patten specialized driving privileges in March 2024, WRTV Investigates received a tip.

When WRTV Investigates started digging, we found Patten is a wanted man.

Documents show he has three more pending cases for drunk driving in Wheeler County Texas, Miami County Ohio and Franklin County Ohio.

They have active warrants for Patten’s arrest.

On April 22, we started asking the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office questions about Patten’s drunk driving convictions.

On May 2, we also asked about his active warrants.

On May 10, the prosecutor’s office filed a petition to revoke Patten’s driving privileges citing his drunk driving history and active warrants.

Magistrate Lena Sanders held a hearing on the matter on June 3.

"The fact that Mr. Patten continues to operate a vehicle in Marion County when he has warrants for his arrest in other counties is very alarming for the prosecutor,” said deputy prosecutor Lucas Niekamp.

Prosecutors say Patten is not sober despite previous claims

Prosecutors also brought out Facebook screenshots from 2022 and 2023 during the court hearing which appeared to show Patten holding alcoholic beverages.

Provided by Marion County Prosecutor's Office

“What are we seeing in that post right there?” Niekamp asked Patten.

“That is a High Noon, a very low alcohol drink someone gave me at the pool,” responded Patten.

Prosecutors showed Patten holding a shot glass in a Facebook post.

“Yeah, we had a Buckeye shot,” responded Patten. “I’m sorry.”

Remember, on March 4, Patten said under oath he was sober.

"He lied to the court on various occasions about his sobriety,” said Niekamp. “He is continuing to consume alcohol. He is not sober."


Patten explained his definition of sober.

“Well, I guess sober means different things to me,” said Patten. “Not drinking to excess, maybe a beer here or there but not drinking to excess.”

Patten says he has not driven drunk in years.

“There's intermittent times I might have a drink but certainly not while driving,” said Patten.

Patten’s attorney Matt Kroes fired back at prosecutors.

“It's almost as if they say ‘hey we didn't do our job back in March and we want to do it now,’” said Kroes. “They could have done all of this months ago. But they want to come in and say you lied here and here to make it look like Mr. Patten is trying to pull the wool over the court's head is absolutely false."

Kroes fought against the petition to revoke Patten’s driving privileges.

“To come in and say we need to pull this away, I don’t think it’s appropriate,” said Kroes. “I don’t think he needs to have it revoked. He’s been perfectly fine on ignition interlock with no violations.”

Marion County’s own records show Patten violated probation in 2021 for failing alcohol and drug tests.

We asked the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office why no one mentioned that at the March 2024 hearing in which Patten said he was sober.

Brian Patten in court on June 3

“These proceedings are not criminal, they are civil petitions and they rely largely on truthful testimony and treatment work of participants and their attorneys,” said Michael Leffler, a spokesperson for the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, in an email to WRTV. “Attorneys and the Court always try to catch and flag those things but they are criminal actions, separate than the civil actions.”

At the end of the June hearing, the Magistrate decided to revoke Patten’s specialized driving privileges.

“You very confidently told me your sobriety date,” said Magistrate Lena Sanders. “Sir, you were dishonest to the court.”

Patten headed for the parking lot, but not his car.

He called for a ride.

“I’m going to listen to my attorney”: Patten responds to WRTV

As he was leaving court, WRTV Investigates Kara Kenney tried to speak with Patten.

  • Kenney: Mr. Patten, we’d like to speak with you to get your side of the story? What’s your reaction to the judge’s decision?
  • Attorney: We aren’t going to make a statement right now.
  • Kenney: Why not? We’d like to get your side of the story. What is your reaction to the judge’s decision?
  • Patten: I’m going to listen to my attorney on that. I certainly haven’t done anything since getting the interlock.
  • Kenney: Have you thought about public safety?
  • Patten: Always.
  • Kenney: When was the last time you drank and got behind the wheel?
  • Patten: Years. Years. Thanks!
  • Kenney: Mothers Against Drunk Driving calls your behavior selfish. What’s your response to that?
  • Attorney: We aren’t going to be making any statements. But we do appreciate it though.
  • Kenney: As for the active warrants, do you plan to turn yourself in?
  • Patten: I’m going to listen to my attorney.
  • Attorney: I can’t make any comments. We still have pending cases we have to deal with. But we do thank you guys for coming out.

Patten’s driver’s license is currently suspended until 2030 and his specialized driving privileges are revoked.

As for Patten’s outstanding warrants, the counties Ohio and Texas do not have any plans to extradite Patten.

“Because the offense is a Class B Misdemeanor, the State of Texas cannot extradite Mr. Patten back to Texas,” a Wheeler County Texas attorney said in an email to WRTV Investigates. “Texas may only extradite persons arrested out of state for felony charges. Therefore, Mr. Patten can only be arrested on this warrant within the State of Texas.”

Patten could be arrested in Ohio and Texas on those warrants.

“If he gets stopped in Ohio or he’s in Ohio and turns himself in or makes contact with the court, then at that point we would take him into custody,” said Sgt. Tyler Ross with Ohio State Highway Patrol.

At the June 3 hearing in Marion County, prosecutors explained why Patten was allowed to walk out of court.

“The state has made an inquiry with those counties,” said deputy prosecutor Lucas Niekamp. “They will only be served in those respective states. So there’s not a request at this time for Mr. Patten to be taken into custody as it relates to his outstanding warrants.

He’s due in Hendricks County court on July 25 for the Operating a Vehicle as a Habitual Traffic Violator charge.

On June 21, Hendricks County prosecutors filed for a felony offender enhancement citing his convictions in Marion County.

The enhancement will be discussed at the hearing as well.