Incoming Mecklenburg commissioner says she was charged with DWI while in parked car

An incoming Mecklenburg County commissioner was arrested earlier this month for driving while impaired, she confirmed.

Yvette Townsend-Ingram told The Charlotte Observer she “was not in a good mental state” on May 1 and went to a park in Belmont, where she parked her car and drank from a bottle of wine. Townsend-Ingram said she was not driving, but that she left her car on to run the air conditioning and fell asleep.

She was charged with DWI because the car was on, Townsend-Ingram said.

Belmont Police arrested Townsend-Ingram at 8:55 p.m. May 1 at Kevin Loftin Riverfront Park for driving while impaired and a liquor laws violation, according to a police report. She was booked at 11:34 p.m. for DWI and “open container after consuming alcohol” and released hours later on a written promise to appear in court, according to Gaston County Sheriff’s Office records.

A breathalyzer test said Townsend-Ingram’s blood alcohol content was more than two and a half times the legal limit, Observer news partner WSOC reported, citing court records. The legal limit in North Carolina is 0.08. Court documents said police reported a “strong odor of alcoholic beverage, glassy bloodshot eyes, very unsteady on feet, slurred speech and very argumentative,” according to WSOC.

The charges were first reported by WBTV.

Townsend-Ingram said she wasn’t aware she was breaking the law but said she “made a mistake.”

“I’m taking full responsibility for my actions, not understanding, you know, the law of you know, drinking in public .... Although I was not driving, I was behind the wheel and my car was running,” she said.

Townsend-Ingram finished third out of five candidates in March’s Democratic primary for three at-large seats on the board, with 23.76% of the vote. Because no Republicans filed in the race, the top three Democratic primary finishers are unopposed in November’s general election.

Townsend-Ingram said she was struggling at the time of her arrest because of the recent death of her brother and being laid off unexpectedly from her job. She said in her Observer candidate survey before the primary that she was the director of foundation relations at Johnson C. Smith University.

Townsend-Ingram said she’s “taking responsibility” for her actions and said her experience helps her understand the importance of mental health care.

“I want people to understand that, one, I can empathize with issues that come up in life and, two, mental wellness is a critically important thing to me, and the county has services for mental health … It’s important how you go through, how you move forward after you’ve made a mistake,” she said.