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Bruce Springsteen’s Drunken-Driving Charges Are Dismissed

Prosecutors dismissed the two most serious criminal charges that the rock icon Bruce Springsteen was facing — drunken driving and reckless driving — during a brief videoconference on Wednesday in federal court in New Jersey.

Mr. Springsteen, 71, pleaded guilty to the least serious charge, drinking alcohol in a closed area where it is barred. He was fined $540.

“Two small shots of tequila,” Mr. Springsteen said as his lawyer, Mitchell Ansell, walked him through his guilty plea.

“Mr. Springsteen, I need to ask you how long you need to pay the fine,” the judge, Anthony R. Mautone, said.

“I think I can pay that immediately, your honor,” Mr. Springsteen answered.

In dismissing the charges, prosecutors noted that Mr. Springsteen’s blood alcohol level was .02 percent, well below New Jersey’s 0.08 percent legal limit.

“The defendant would be considered presumptively not impaired,” the assistant U.S. attorney, Adam Baker, said during a 22-minute hearing conducted over Zoom, a videoconferencing app.

The National Park Service ranger who arrested Mr. Springsteen had said in an affidavit that the singer-songwriter refused an initial breath test after he was stopped on his motorcycle on Nov. 14 near the Sandy Hook Lighthouse in New Jersey.

“That test is not required by law,” Mr. Baker added, “and he did submit to the legally required breath test when he was at the ranger station.”

Judge Mautone went further, noting that even if Mr. Springsteen had agreed to the initial test, it would not have been legal to admit the results as evidence.

Mr. Springsteen, one of the most celebrated popular musicians of his generation with 20 Grammy Awards, was arrested after the ranger witnessed him drink a shot of Patron tequila in a national park along the northern Jersey Shore, Gateway National Recreation Area — a fact that Mr. Springsteen admitted during the hearing.

The officer wrote in a probable cause report that the musician smelled “strongly of alcohol” and was “visibly swaying back and forth.”

Before the federal government dismissed the charges, Mr. Springsteen, through his lawyer, pleaded not guilty to drunken driving and reckless driving, both of which are punishable by as much as $5,000 in fines and six months in prison.

Mr. Springsteen appeared on Zoom about 10 minutes before the start of the hearing, seated next to Mr. Ansell. The musician wore a dark-colored suit jacket and a blue Oxford-style button-down shirt.

There was some light banter as court officers admitted members of the public into the virtual hearing.

Mr. Springsteen smiled as Judge Mautone asked about a California address in the charging documents, which, the parties agreed, might be related to the registration of Mr. Springsteen’s motorcycle. Mr. Springsteen lives with his family in Colts Neck, N.J., about 20 miles from where he was arrested.

With seven minutes before the start of the hearing, there were 126 spectators on the Zoom call. The judge said public access would be closed promptly at 11 a.m.

“I don’t want everybody and their mother,” Judge Mautone said.

The Park Service did not disclose Mr. Springsteen’s D.W.I. arrest. Details about the charges were instead leaked to TMZ, an entertainment website, days after Mr. Springsteen appeared in a Jeep ad during the Super Bowl. It was his first commercial ever, and he was shown driving a white Jeep beside snow-swept fields in one of the most-watched ads of Super Bowl LV.

Jeep pulled the ad from its social media sites hours after Mr. Springsteen’s arrest became public.

“Its message of community and unity is as relevant as ever,” a company spokeswoman said in a statement. “As is the message that drinking and driving can never be condoned.”

Video of the ad, and the script that Mr. Springsteen recited — a lyrical call for a divided country to reunite “in the middle”— was still featured prominently on Wednesday on his Instagram page.

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