Sailor’s DWI Arrest Prompts Navy to Ban Drinking in Okinawa

A U.S. sailor was arrested in Okinawa, Japan this past weekend for DWI. The sailor, Aimee Mejia, was driving on a major highway when she crossed over the center line and crashed into two cars head-on. No one was reported killed in the crash, but two Japanese citizens were injured. A blood alcohol test reported an alcohol concentration of .7 mg/L. Converted to Texas DWI units of measure, she was about a .07 g/100ml.

Japan has a legal limit of .015 g/100ml for a DWI charge. Although Mejia was very close to the legal limit under Texas DWI law, she was roughly five times the legal limit under Japanese law. Japan and many other countries have much stricter laws against drunk driving than Texas or other U.S. states. The Japanese standard allows for about one average sized drink before driving, or a person will be over the legal limit.

Latest news reports indicate the sailor is in Japanese police custody. No information has been reported in regard to whether or not a DWI defense lawyer is involved at this time.

The crash and arrest have fueled tensions between Okinawan Japanese who are angry about a long term pattern of criminal behavior by U.S. military personnel in Japan. Just a month ago, a former Marine was arrested in connection with the rape and murder of a 20 year old Japanese girl. One of the worst incidents was the kidnapping and rape of a 12 year old Japanese girl by three U.S. servicemen in 1995. The U.S. military has imposed restrictions on alcohol use and curfews on military presence on the mainland in the wake of recent arrests.

A person arrested in Japan does have the right to have a lawyer represent them. Police, however, do not have to wait for an attorney to advise a person before they are questioned by police. Aggressive interrogations often happen in Japan before prisoners have had a chance to get legal advice from a defense attorney.

Japan has one of the highest conviction rates in the world.