TYRONE - A Blandburg man is in jail after allegedly showing up drunk Tuesday to his DUI hearing.
Randolph L. Franks, 52, of 155 Levingood Ave. was in Magisterial District Judge Fred B. Miller's courtroom to sign paperwork to waive his preliminary hearing on driving under the influence charges for a May 26 vehicle stop when Miller noticed that Franks smelled of alcohol.
The state trooper who initially arrested Franks on Route 865 near Bell Tip and Grandview roads, walked outside and spotted an open 16-ounce beer on the console of Franks' truck, prompting Trooper Craig Grassmyer to issue Franks a citation for having an open container of alcohol and Miller to hold a bail hearing.
Grassmyer brought the can of Busch beer he said he pulled from Franks' Chevrolet pickup truck, one with the vanity license plate BLNBURG, into the courtroom, prompting Assistant Public Defender Jason Sabol to protest.
"I'm absolutely appalled by this," Sabol said. "That an officer went out and got into his car without a warrant or consent."
Regardless of whether the beer was in plain sight, it wasn't proper, Sabol said. Miller said that was an issue for another day, should Franks decide to challenge the citation for having an open container.
Miller said he smelled alcohol on Franks' breath when the defendant was about to sign his paperwork and sent Franks out of the courtroom after he admitted he had been drinking earlier.
"Is that can cold?" Miller asked Grassmyer, who said it was cold, and that Franks told him outside he had opened the beer on his way to Tyrone from Blandburg.
Sabol protested the assertion made by Assistant District Attorney Derek Elensky that Franks was a danger to the community and should have to post cash bail because he showed up to court drunk and very likely drove.
Grassmyer told the judge that Franks also had an open can of Busch beer in his truck when he was stopped May 26. In that case, state police allege Franks had a blood-alcohol content of 0.35 percent, more than four times the legal limit in Pennsylvania.
Franks said he came to court on Tuesday with his brother, and Sabol pointed out until his arrest on May 26, Franks had no criminal history.
"He comes to court after getting a DUI with an open container," Elensky said.
Miller said he was uncomfortable allowing Franks to even sign his paperwork for the DUI case, let alone leave the courtroom.
"I have a significant concern for the community," Miller said, adding that while it couldn't be proven Franks drove to the hearing, he believed he did, and that he had a problem with alcohol.
"I was nervous," Franks said of why he had the beer. "I've never been to court before."
Miller set bail for Franks at $7,500 cash and continued his DUI case for one week before Franks was handcuffed and taken away to Blair County Prison.
Mirror Staff Writer Greg Bock is at 946-7458.