Murray County school teacher, Jennifer Zeigler.Staff photo by Chattanooga Times Free Press
ETON, Ga. — A Murray County middle school teacher arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence while on her way to school was sentenced to 12 months probation and must attend an alcohol treatment program after a test showed her blood alcohol level was nearly four times the legal limit.
Jennifer Zeigler, 45, of Chatsworth, Ga., also will pay almost $1,000 in fines and do 40 hours of community service.
Zeigler entered a no-contest plea to the DUI charge in Eton Municipal Court on Tuesday morning. She pleaded guilty to charges of speeding and following too closely.
Zeigler, who appeared in court with her lawyer, James Toland, told the judge she already was enrolled in an outpatient treatment program.
Municipal Judge Steve Hampton told Zeigler he had discussed the charges with the arresting officer and would lower the speed so it would not affect her driving record. Zeigler had been charged with driving 28 mph over the speed limit after an Eton police officer clocked her 2010 Nissan Altima doing 63 mph in a 35 mph zone on U.S. Highway 411, according to the police report.
Before the officer pulled Zeigler over on the morning of March 16, she hit a truck stopped at a red light and nearly hit another vehicle as she turned onto Georgia Highway 286, the report says.
After she got out of her car, the officer noted on the report that Zeigler was “unsteady on her feet” and “stumbled while walking.” Her “eyes were bloodshot and her speech was slurred,” according to the report.
Zeigler told the officer she had not been drinking, the report says. She told the officer several times that she had to leave so she could make it to Bagley Middle School to open the school at 6:30 a.m., the police report says
On Tuesday, Eton Police Chief Brent Hooper said a urine sample sent to the Georgia crime lab showed Zeigler had a blood alcohol content level of 0.31. The legal limit in Georgia is 0.08.
Hampton ordered Zeigler to pay $746 on the DUI charge, $70 for the speeding charge and $120 for following too closely. If Zeigler completes all requirements of her probation after 12 months, Hampton said, he would consider waiving mandatory jail time required in a DUI charge.
During the court hearing, Zeigler leaned forward and spoke quietly when answering Hampton’s questions. Most of her comments could not be heard except by those nearest her.
Toland asked Zeigler be permitted to serve her community service at the Boys and Girls Club, given her experience with children.
After the hearing, Toland said Zeigler is working diligently to meet all the requirements of her sentencing.
“She feels a real sense of responsibility,” he said. Zeigler did not have a previous arrest record.
Danny Dunn, personnel director for Murray County Schools, said Tuesday that Zeigler has been on paid administrative leave since her arrest.
The school is investigating the case and has not made a final decision, Dunn said.
Zeigler, who teaches seventh-grade language arts, has been with the school system for about 26 years.
Mariann Martin covers healthcare in Chattanooga and the surrounding region. She joined the Times Free Press in February 2011, after covering crime and courts for the Jackson (Tenn.) Sun for two years. Mariann was born in Indiana, but grew up in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Belize. She graduated from Union University in 2005 with degrees in English and history and has master’s degrees in international relations and history from the University of Toronto. While attending Union, ...