Michael Ledbetter

A Rhea County bus driver charged in November 2018 with driving under the influence of an intoxicant [DUI] while driving a county school bus will serve 30 days after pleading guilty on Monday.

Michael Ledbetter, of Dayton, plead guilty to DUI with a child under 18 in the vehicle and reckless endangerment, according to District Attorney Mike Taylor. After the 30-day jail sentence, Ledbetter will be on 18 months of probation, according to reports.

In November 2018, while driving his route, Ledbetter came to the attention of law enforcement after students on the bus began texting and calling their parents and school officials claiming that Ledbetter appeared to be driving erratically, according to investigators with the Rhea County Sheriff’s Department [RCSD].

RCSD Investigator Rocky Potter said that once the county school system heard the complaints, they moved quickly and contacted Ledbetter on the bus’ radio, telling him to pull over and wait for law enforcement.

According to an arrest report on file with the Rhea County Sheriff’s Department, Ledbetter did pull over on Highway 27 just north of Rhea Medical Center after being contacted by school system officials, and RCSD Deputy Tony Moore was one of the first law enforcement officials to arrive on scene.

“Dispatch advised that the driver could possibly be impaired, according to the reports they were receiving,” Moore said. “I located the bus on the side of the roadway on Highway 27 with a white male standing at the back of the bus. I noticed a faint odor of alcohol around him.”

Moore said that he asked Ledbetter if he was okay, and said that Ledbetter responded that he was scared and didn’t know what was going on.

“While speaking to Mr. Ledbetter, I observed him swaying back and forth,” Moore said. “I asked Mr. Ledbetter if he consumed any alcohol, and he replied, ‘No.’”

The deputy also asked Ledbetter if he had taken any medication, and Ledbetter said he had just taken his inhaler, Benadryl and Dayquil earlier that morning at around 5 a.m.

Moore then began initiating a series of field sobriety tests and said in the arrest report that Ledbetter had performed all tests “poorly.” Ledbetter then agreed to have a blood alcohol test and have his blood drawn at Rhea Medical Center.

Moore said that there were 27 children on the bus at the time of Ledbetter’s arrest. Those children, he said, were moved to another bus that eventually arrived at the scene and some were picked up by their parents who then took them school.

School officials immediately fired Ledbetter after learning of the allegations.