May

31

DUI Suspects Wreck Police Property

By Topher

In the history of DUI arrests, all manner of property has been damaged, from cars and houses, to fast food restaurants and burger joints. Drunk drivers have been discovered driving Barbie cars, lawnmowers and even a motorized recliner.

The least advisable piece of property to damage, though, would seem to be that of the police, especially if you are driving drunk or impaired. Two suspects this week, however, seemed to have disregarded this simple idea, and these DUI stories out of Pennsylvania and Florida prove that nothing should be a surprise when it comes to drunk driving.

In Allentown, Pennsylvania, the Lebanon Daily News is reporting that Eric Verbin of the town of Bath was stopped by a police officer on a bicycle while he was driving his car.

Rather than submitting himself to the terms of the traffic stop, Verbin ran over the officer’s bicycle, then fled the police officer.

The chase did not last long, as Verbin soon crashed his car and the pursuit was over. It turned out that he allegedly had prescription medication in the car with him. Verbin was charged with DUI and fleeing the police in the traffic stop.

In Jacksonville, Florida, a man from Gainesville faces DUI charges after he allegedly smashed his car in a parking lot, according to a report from News 4 in Jacksonville. Adding to the man’s problems? The parking lot was for the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office.

It was early on a Sunday morning when police say Michael Giermanski crashed into a sign in the parking lot of the sheriff’s office substation. Also damaged in the ill-advised accident was a palm tree and some shrubbery.

There was a Putnam County deputy in the parking lot at the time that Giermanski crashed onto the scene. That deputy saw the whole thing happen, and was able to provide medical assistance to the driver until the paramedics got to the scene.

Giermanski’s injuries are reportedly minor. He was charged with DUI with property damage, and careless driving.

May

26

Judge Slaps Lindsay Lohan with Alcohol-Monitoring Bracelet

By Topher

Lindsay Lohan has been an active participant in the celebrity news cycle throughout her Hollywood career. A new scandal or piece of juicy gossip about the young actress seems to emerge every week or two, reminding us how calm most of our lives are in comparison.

But a recent turn has taken Lohan from the world of L.A. gossip to serious legal tangle, as she had to appear in court after pleading guilty to misdemeanor drug charges and no contest to three driving charges in 2007. She was given probation at the time.

Now, a judge has ordered that Lohan must wear an alcohol-monitoring bracelet, and submit to drug testing in the L.A. every week, the San Jose Mercury News is reporting.

At first, Lohan’s lawyer attempted to contest the ruling that her client had to wear a bracelet. The judge responded that she would be happy to spend the next half an hour listing reasons that she is requiring Lohan to wear the bracelet tracking her blood alcohol content. The lawyer accepted that as basis enough to continue without further challenge.

The judge also ordered an alcohol education program for the starlet.

Her appearance in court recently was to address the fact that Lohan, had missed an appointment to appear in court last week for a progress report on her probation. On the day that she was supposed to be in Beverly Hills for that progress report, she was actually in Cannes, France, partying at the Cannes Film Festival. A warrant for her arrest was sent out, though it was recalled after Lohan posted bail.

Lohan’s lawyer claimed that her passport had been stolen while she was in France, and that it prevented her from getting on a flight from France.

The weekly drug testing could jeopardize a movie project that Lohan was scheduled to film in Texas. When presented with this information, the judge suggested that the project would have to wait.

Lohan spent several hours after the court session, waiting to have the alcohol-monitoring bracelet put on. She will have to wear the bracelet at least until her next hearing, which will take place in July.

While ignition interlock devices are common penalties for a DUI arrest, alcohol monitoring bracelets are less common. However, this high-profile case has brought them to the attention of the public at large, and even some mothers have an interest in using them to keep tabs on their teenagers.

Steps such as these are still a ways off, however, as the bracelet is not widely available.

May

24

Pennsylvania Man Sentenced for DUI in Death of State Senator

By Topher

In October of 2008, Pennsylvania state senator James J. Rhoades was driving down the highway when a car swerved in front of him. The two cars collided, and the injuries that Rhoades sustained proved fatal. He died the next morning.

The driver of the car that swerved in front of him was Thomas P. Senavitis, of Kunkletown. Senavitis was sentenced recently, having been found guilty of blood-alcohol content of .16 or higher and four counts of recklessly endangering another person.

For these offenses, he was charged with 200 days to 23 months in jail, according to an article in the Republican Herald. Having served that time while awaiting sentencing, Senavitis was immediately released from prison and paroled.

Senavitis did not offer many words about the case, or his sentence and release from jail. When he was asked how he felt about it, he replied, “I’m not sure yet.” With him was his wife, Dolores.

Asked what he was going to do next, Monroe County Chief Public Defender Wieslaw T. Niemoczynski said, “He’s going to check into the parole office and then go on with the rest of his life.” The parole period could last as long as 23 months.

The trial took four days in mid-March. A jury found Senavitis guilty of the charges, but did not find him guilty of felony vehicular homicide and aggravated assault, which are far more serious charges.

Senavitis must also pay a $1,000 fine, complete a drug and alcohol treatment program and have his driver’s license revoked for one year.

James J. Rhoades was a Republican from Mahanoy City, who began serving in office in 1980.

The 66-year-old had served seven terms in the Pennsylvania senate. He was actively involved in education initiatives, and had also been a teacher, a coach and a school principal before entering into public service. He was the longtime chairman of the Senate Education Committee.

He had been on his way to a function at a local high school at the time of the accident. His wife survived the accident, though she suffered major injuries.

May

21

DUI Crash by Pregnant Driver Leads to Additional Charges

By Topher

A Georgia woman who refused to stop her vehicle for police and subsequently got into a car crash will likely face charges after the death of the fetus that she was carrying.

According to an article from ABC News, Jessica Bruce was fleeing police in her car when she hit another vehicle, spun around into oncoming traffic, and then got hit by another vehicle. The accident killed the fetus that she was carrying, according to police.

The initial traffic stop was for speeding. Investigators said that Bruce was traveling about 85 miles per hour in a 65 miles per hour zone outside of Atlanta, in the suburbs. Bruce had to be cut out of the wreckage before she could be taken to the hospital. Another person involved in the crash was also taken to the hospital.

An autopsy was performed on the fetus, which authorities are awaiting the results on. That autopsy will theoretically determine if the fetus’ death was the result of the accident.

A toxicology test was also given to Bruce. Police believe that Bruce was drunk at the time of the incident, though the result of the tests will determine how prosecutors will proceed.

Douglas County District Attorney David McDade told ABC that the early information suggests that Bruce will likely face “feticide by vehicle” charges. “The preliminary investigation leads us to believe she was under the influence of alcohol,” he said. “She was fleeing police at a high rate of speed and driving dangerously.”

The vehicular feticide charge carries a 15-year prison sentence, according to ABC News.
According to McDade, the age of the child is not relevant under Georgia law, as long as it was alive just before the incident. “There will almost certainly be criminal responsibility,” he said.
Bruce won’t be charged until she leaves the hospital, according to McDade.

Twenty-four states have the “fetus as victim” written into laws that relate to DUI cases. Some states have laws that vary based on the age of the fetus. Some states have penalties starting at 7–12 weeks, while five states have laws saying that a 16-18-week-old fetus can get someone a full-blown murder charge. Three other states call 28 weeks that cut-off point.

May

17

Nevada DUI Leads to Prison Sentence After Runner Killed

By Topher

Joshua Salayich cried as he asked for leniency from the judge who would sentence him for DUI in the October death of a runner from Utah. The family members of the victim were also in the courthouse, and they had described the pain of losing Jeremy Kunz, a father and youth leader from Kamas, Utah.

The sentence handed down to Salayich was 7 to 20 years in prison. This was slightly more harsh than the 6 to 20 years recommended by parole and probation officials, reports the Reno Gazette-Journal.

Kunz was participating in one leg of a relay race from Valley of Fire State Park to the Red Rock Resort when Salayich hit him while driving at 4:30 a.m.

An eyewitness, another runner in the race, said that Kunz had tried to jump out of the way of the Nissan Altima that would strike and ultimately kill him.

The car rolled over in a cloud of dust. When it finally came to a stop in a lot, the driver got out, grabbed a few things, asked the witness not to call the cops, and walked away.

As a part of Salayich’s plea deal to plead guilty, prosecutors agreed to drop the felony charge of leaving the scene of the crash. Salayich was close to his home in Henderson, Nevada, when the crash occurred.

According to prosecutors, Salayich’s blood-alcohol content was measured at 0.26 percent following the crash, or over three times the legal limit.

“Jeremy’s death was entirely avoidable,” said his wife, Melinda. Jeremy left behind three children. He was what his family called an active community and family member. “My children will not be able to feel their daddy’s arms around them,” she continued in court, adding that she forgave Salayich but that she felt he should still be punished.

“I want the consequences of his actions to be fully applied to him,” she went on. “His actions and their consequences have been fully applied to me. Mercy cannot rob justice.”

“There are no words to say how sorry I am for this,” Salayich said in court. “All it takes is one horrible decision. For the rest of your life you have to live with that.”

May

13

Illinois State Rep Pleads Guilty to DUI

By Topher

Yet another public official is in the spotlight for reasons that have nothing to do with civic involvement.

State Representative Ron Stephens pleaded guilty to DUI following a recent arrest in Illinois, according to an article from the Belleville News-Democrat.

He was sentenced to a year of court supervision after the guilty plea, in which he admitted to driving under the influence of alcohol. His driver’s license was also suspended until October 30, though he maintains an active pharmacist’s license.

Stephens was arrested for DUI in March 2010 after he was pulled over by Decatur, Illinois, police. He was given a blood-alcohol test and registered a blood-alcohol content of 0.101, which is over the legal limit of 0.08. The police report said that Stephens had been on his way home from dinner with friends, where he had consumed two Jack and Cokes.

Stephens’ office decided not to comment, and said that Stephens would not discuss the case in interviews or comments beyond a statement that he made to the public after he was arrested in March.

This isn’t Stephens first run-in with the authorities. He is a pharmacist, but his license was put on probation in 2001 when he was found to have diverted controlled substances from his pharmacy to his personal control. He went though 11 weeks of drug rehab that same year. His license was on probation for more than five years after that.

The probation ended in 2007, though he said he didn’t intend to keep up his practice. As of very recently his status as a pharmacist was listed as active.

Recently the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation said that they didn’t intend to renew his pharmacy license. Stephens had a month to request a hearing in that case. According to a spokesman, however, Stephens’ license wasn’t due to expire until 2012.

Stephens, a Republican, has been a member of the state assembly since 1985, minus a two-year stint when he was not elected to the position. As a representative of the 102nd district, he serves a number of counties in southern Illinois, and lives in Greenville, Illinois. He was born in East St. Louis, Illinois.

May

11

DWI Arrest Leads Hofstra Hoops Coach to Resign

By Topher

The Tim Welsh era was over almost as soon as it started.

Welsh took the head basketball coaching job at Hofstra on March 31. He had just barely assembled his staff, began recruiting new players and setting up workouts.

But just last weekend Welsh was arrested for DWI, and the charges have brought an end his tenure barely a month after it started.

Welsh had what the New York Post called a “sterling reputation” in the New York area with high school coaches and the media. He had no prior arrests.

Nonetheless, Hofstra demanded Welsh’s resignation from its highest offices. Athletic director Jack Hayes was not happy with the alleged DUI offense, but he had been willing to keep Welsh around. University president Stuart Rabinowitz, however, made the final decision to demand the resignation.

“Tim Welsh tendered his resignation as the Hofstra University men’s basketball coach,” said Hofstra vice president of university relations Melissa Connolly in a statement. “The University accepted the resignation in the best interests of the University and of the men’s basketball program.”

Hayes and Rabinowitz had met to figure out how to begin the search for a new coach, and there is the possibility that an assistant could step into the role. That could last for an interim year, or the school could start a major search process.

Welsh told the Post that he “felt that it was in the best interests of Hofstra University, my family and myself to make this decision and move forward.” He did not discuss the DUI arrest that had led to his resignation.

A source said that Welsh was as concerned about his assistant coaches and their professional fate as he was his own.

According to the New York Times, Welsh registered a blood alcohol content of 0.18 when he was pulled over while driving on a major road in Nassau, Long Island. He was arrested and charged with aggravated DWI. He had reportedly been drinking at a wine bar. At the time of the arrest, he was preparing to move with his wife from Rhode Island to start the new job.

His court case has been postponed until June 1, though the resignation takes effect right away.

May

5

Smartphone Apps Look to Reduce DUI Arrests

By Topher

It seems like there is a smartphone app for everything these days, from silly video games to powerful GPS navigation systems. Now, several state governments are working to build apps that can help people stay safe on the roads and avoid being arrested for DUI title.

According to a story from GovTech.com, government agencies, with the help of average citizens who know how to create smartphone apps, are figuring out ways that they can use smartphone apps to cut down on drunk driving.

The Colorado Department of Transportation, for example, recently released an iPhone application called R-U-Buzzed. This app can estimate blood alcohol content by allowing the user to enter their weight and the number of drinks and alcohol type they’ve consumed. If users register as having had too much to drink and the app displays the message: “Don’t even think about it!”

Another app, created during the Apps for Democracy contest hosted by iStrategy Labs, is called Stumble Safely. This app is designed to help pedestrians walk home safely after a night out at the bars.

The app factors in crime rates, neighborhood information, bar locations, public transit options, and time of day to provide a safe path home for users.

The Office of Traffic Safety in California also announced a no-cost partnership with an app called Taxi Magic, which helps users to find a taxi cab. This app promotes finding a cab driver to drive you home instead of making a bad decision and getting a DUI or causing damage from behind the wheel.

“It gives those who need to get someplace when they’ve had too much to drink an easy way to do it,” said California OTS Spokesman Chris Cochran. “It’s one more tool in the anti-DUI tactics we have.”

He said that all a user had to do was get in the cab when it arrived, helping out anyone who can’t otherwise find a safe ride home.

Taxi Magic is a free application that was released in January of 2009. It became one of the top applications in the iTunes store. Customers with iPhones can summon a cab to their location with the press of a single button.

May

3

Georgia DUI Pursuit Chase Leads to Marijuana Outpost

By Topher

We have heard before about how a DUI arrest leads to a suspect getting in more hot water about additional crimes. But this story features a suspect who led police directly into the heart of another of his allegedly illegal associations.

In Gwinnett County, Georgia, one suspected crime led to discovery of another, as a DUI suspect led police on a wild chase to a house serving as the headquarters for a marijuana growing operation.

According to authorities, Charles Byrd was fleeing police after they tried to stop his green Chrysler Sebring when they saw that the driver had broken several traffic laws.

Byrd did not pull over, though. Instead, he jumped out of his car towards a home off of the highway. He ran into the house and locked the door. Police called in back-up to address the situation, and they surrounded the house.

Byrd soon came out of the house, but the end to the stand-off wasn’t the end of the case. Police smelled a strong odor of marijuana coming from the house when Byrd came out, and he was arrested.

As they were dealing with the arrest of Byrd, police found another occupant in the house, Timothy Donahue, hiding from them.

Police obtained a search warrant to investigate the home, and when they did so they found 69 marijuana plants in different stages of the growth process. They also found almost 1,500 grams of already processed marijuana and equipment used to cultivate marijuana.

All told, the marijuana that was confiscated had a monetary value of more than $327,000.

Charles Byrd, who had led police to the pot hideout while evading the consequences of a different offense, was charged with DUI and possession of marijuana with the intent to sell. He was also charged with driving with an expired tag, driving without headlights after dark, making an improper turn and driving without a driver’s license with him.

Donahue also faces charges surrounding the intent to distribute marijuana. He had an outstanding warrant in another county as well.

Both of the men are being held at the county’s detention center as police continue to investigate the marijuana growing operation.