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Deputies: Man was drunk when he stole car and crashed

PALM HARBOR — A Palm Harbor man left a bar without paying his tab, stole a car from the parking lot and was arrested on a drunken driving charge after he crashed into a light pole and then kept going with a wheel nearly disconnected from its axle, authorities said.

Todd J. Mitchka, 31, of 310 Palmer Circle, was charged with retail theft, grand theft of a motor vehicle, burglary and driving under the influence.

According to arrest reports, Mitchka was drinking at Varsity Club restaurant and bar at 36355 East Lake Road and left about 1 a.m. Wednesday without paying his $20 tab.

Mitchka then entered a white 2002 Mitsubishi Galant in the parking lot, found a spare key in the glove compartment and used it to steal the car, arrest reports show.

About 2 a.m., a Pinellas County sheriff's deputy responded to a report of an accident near Tarpon Lake Boulevard and East Lake Road. The deputy found a damaged concrete light pole and debris, including part of a white passenger-side car door.

The deputy "saw gouge marks on the roadway, which he followed in this rather circuitous route" until he found Mitchka at Cypress Green Drive and Grenoble Court near Highlands Boulevard, said Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Marianne Pasha.

The car had extensive damage to the door and the right rear wheel, which was mostly disconnected from the axle, Pasha said.

Mitchka had the car key in his pocket and smelled of alcohol, reports show. He refused a Breathalyzer test but performed field sobriety tests and failed, according to a Florida Highway Patrol trooper who joined the sheriff's deputy and took over the accident investigation.

Mitchka has two previous DUI convictions: one in 2006 and another in 2008, reports show.

He was treated and released from Mease Countryside Hospital in Safety Harbor for minor injuries he sustained in the crash before he was taken to the Pinellas County Jail.

On Thursday afternoon he was still jailed in lieu of $15,150 bail.

Deputies: Man was drunk when he stole car and crashed 03/10/11 [Last modified: Thursday, March 10, 2011 7:35pm]

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