A Washougal man is facing felony charges for allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol in a grocery store parking lot in downtown Centralia on Wednesday.
A reporting party described the defendant, 61-year-old Balwinder Singh Chahal, as “driving erratically and drunk” and stated Chahal “nearly struck him with his car,” according to court documents.
Officers who responded to the call in the 500 block of South Tower Avenue reportedly witnessed Chahal “nearly strike a parked car while driving poorly, strike the curb, smell of alcohol, have mood swings, slurred speech and slow, uncoordinated movements,” according to court documents. A breathalyzer test indicated Chahal had a blood alcohol count of .239 — well over the legal limit of .08.
While a DUIs is typically a gross misdemeanor, it becomes a felony when the defendant has three or more DUI offenses on their record from the last 10 years or has ever been convicted for vehicular homicide while under the influence.
At the time of his arrest on Wednesday, Chahal had five prior felony DUIs on his record and three active arrest warrants. His driver’s license had also apparently been suspended.
Chahal was booked into the Lewis County Jail at 5:20 p.m. on Nov. 24 and has been charged with a felony DUI, escape from community custody and an ignition interlock violation.
At his preliminary appearance hearing in Lewis County Superior Court on Monday, Chahal said he had purchased the vehicle a couple days before his arrest and was unaware it didn’t have an ignition interlock system.
Due to multiple driving-related convictions on Chahal’s record and a concern for community safety, Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer requested Judge James Lawler set Chahal’s bail at $100,000. Defense attorney Rachael Tiller, however, requested Lawler reduce the bail amount to $25,000 due to Chahal’s financial inability to post any bail.
Lawler opted to set bail between the two requests at $75,000.
“Mr. Chahal is clearly a threat to community safety given his inability to stop driving,” Lawler said.
Chahal’s next scheduled court appearance is an arraignment hearing scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 2.