Bus driver drinking on school field trip gets jail sentence

James Martin Nelson
James Martin Nelson(Brown County Clerk)
Published: Aug. 11, 2022 at 9:45 AM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - A bus driver who was fired after admitting he drank beer while taking Green Bay elementary students on a field trip will serve about 3 months in jail and lose his license for a year.

James Martin Nelson, 70, was sentenced in Brown County for Operating While Intoxicated, 1st offense, with a passenger under 16 years old. It’s a misdemeanor. Nelson initially pleaded not guilty but changed his plea to guilty before going on trial. He was also ordered to be on probation for two years with absolute sobriety -- he can’t be in any bars, liquor stores or even homes where alcohol is being served -- and will need an ignition interlock device.

Nelson drove fourth- and fifth-graders from Lincoln Elementary School to Madison in April.

According to the criminal complaint, a student picked up an open beer can under the driver’s seat on the way back. Multiple teachers and chaperones noticed the bus drifting to the point of hitting rumble strips approximately five times between Madison and Green Bay. A teacher told officers they noticed Nelson strike a curb while making a right turn.

Nelson told a police officer he drank two beers on the empty school bus around noon, an hour before the group headed back to Green Bay. The officer saw four empty beer cans in a cooler on the bus.

The complaint says Nelson blew a 0.056 on a preliminary breath test -- above the legal limit for operating a CDL vehicle, which is 0.04. Lamers Bus Lines has a zero-tolerance policy for alcohol and fired Nelson.

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