California Man Charged With Manslaughter in DUI Crash

By Mike

Anthony Guarino, 57, of San Diego, California, will stand trial on felony charges of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, DUI and other charges, following a deadly crash that killed an area father.

According to an article from 10 News, Marc William Durham was killed in the crash of August 20, 2010. He was a father of five who was driving his family to the movies when they were rear-ended by Guarino’s BMW as they pulled up to a red light. Afterward, Guarino was charged with drunk driving in California.

Durham, a former security chief for General Dynamics, had retired just one week before he was killed in the accident. Other members of his family were in the car at the time of the DUI crash, though they escaped with injuries, saying that their father got the worst of it.

Guarino was allegedly drunk at the wheel of his BMW, and he will stand trial on the felony DUI charges after admitting to police that he had been drinking whiskey at a bar before he took to the roads that night.

The accident happened at about 9 p.m. The accident investigator in the case told the court that Guarino was traveling between 50 and 60 miles per hour in the BMW when it hit the Toyota Corolla owned by Durham.

When Guarino rear-ended the car, it started a chain reaction of collisions, and ultimately four other vehicles were involved, with additional injuries to passengers in those vehicles, including an 8-year-old boy.

Guarino told police that he had consumed around five Jack Daniels before he headed home from the bar. He admitted to police also that his driving was affected by how much alcohol he drank, but, according to the article, “he didn’t know how.”

Officers at the scene determined based on their judgment and observation that Guarino was intoxicated. When his blood alcohol content was measured several hours later, he registered a BAC of .15 percent, which is well over the .08 legal limit for driving while intoxicated. And it is likely, according to the claim of Deputy District Attorney Chandelle Konstanzer in court, that it was much higher at the time of the accident.

The defense for Guarino made the argument that his client was not guilty of gross negligence, and that a sleep apnea condition may have contributed to Guarino passing out while at the wheel.

The trial is set for early December, and Guarino is free on $100,000 bail, but he is not allowed to drink alcohol or drive.



California City Council Candidate Cleared of DUI Checkpoint Misconduct

By Mike

A DUI checkpoint was the scene of what some call a local politics power play, but the local government candidate in question was acquitted of criminal wrongdoing after interacting with police at the checkpoint.

Planning commissioner Jim Righeimer is a candidate for the City Council of Costa Mesa, California, in the upcoming elections. Righeimer was recently involved in an incident that came under fire, not for being under suspicion of DUI, but after he talked with police officers at a DUI checkpoint in a way that some saw as an abuse of power, according to an article in the Orange County Register.

After the incident – which was investigated by city officials – critics said that Righeimer attempted to misuse his power as planning commissioner to confront the police officers at the DUI checkpoint and to direct them to discontinue their activities.

City Attorney Kimberly Hall Barlow, however, recently concluded that Righeimer’s behavior, while it may have fulfilled some of the characterizations pushed forward by opponents of Righeimer, did not appear to show that he had abused the power granted to him by his position as planning commissioner.

The issue was not a matter of criminal wrongdoing, according to the City Attorney.

The determination came after an investigation and then a report, though the report was not released to the public. Several Councilman told the press that the report wasn’t released because it was exempt from public disclosure as part of an investigation.

The City Council voted on whether to release the record of the investigation to the public, and ultimately shot down the idea with a 3-2 vote against disclosing it.

At least one resident of the city, though, thinks it should be available to the media and the public.

“I have some really serious questions about why this information is being held back from the public,” said Costa Mesa local Regina Mundekis. She went on to say that, though the report is private because, as Councilmembers claim, it is in her words a personnel issue and a “public safety matter.”

Several weeks before the vote, however, the city released a recording of the incident in question at the DUI checkpoint. The recording was of Righeimer talking to the police at the DUI checkpoint in what the Orange County Register called “a taut but even voice, objecting to the timing of the checkpoint and asking who authorized it.”

In the past, Righeimer has criticized how much money the police and other public servants make. The president of the police association, Allen Rieckhof, said outright that Righeimer had abused his power with “thug-like tactics.”



Drunk Drivers Endanger Children, Steal Police Car

By Mike

Unfortunately, as we’ve chronicled many times before, driving under the influence and poor decision-making tend to go hand-in-hand.

In a couple of incidents reported in the news recently, alleged drunk drivers endangered children — a far too common occurrence — and police in two separate incidents stemming from DUI.

The Chicago Sun-Times is reporting that a man is accused of driving drunk and texting, all with four children in the back seat of his SUV.

Ruben Rodriguez was seen by police to be speeding and texting on a Sunday. They pulled him over and determined that he was driving under the influence.

They also learned that he had four children in the back seat of his Kia sport utility vehicle.

The man was also driving with a driver’s license that required him to drive only vehicles with an ignition interlock device to measure his blood alcohol content before starting the car. The Kia that he was driving did not have the interlock device.

Because of that violation, police charged him with a driving with a suspended license charge.

Rodriguez has been charged with several crimes, including four counts of child endangerment, speeding, improper lane usage, driving with a suspended license and texting while driving.

In Missouri Valley, Iowa, a man faces charges that could land him in jail for up to a decade after he allegedly stole a police car after being pulled over from DUI.

RadioIowa features an article reporting that Richard Garule was pulled over under suspicion of drunk driving early on a Tuesday morning. The police officer saw firearms of some kind in the vehicle, so he put Garule in the front seat of his police cruiser.

Garule then apparently hopped over to the driver’s side, locked the doors of the patrol car and drove away, escaping attempts by the the deputy to keep him from leaving.

Garule allegedly wrecked the cop car in another town, then stole another SUV. That SUV was found in Blair, Nebraska. Garule was taking a nap inside.

The series of charges that he faces after his apparent joyride could lead to ten years in prison.



Florida Dealership Markets a ‘DUI scooter’

By Mike

In Clearwater, Florida, a motor scooter dealership decided to implement an aggressive campaign to meet the needs of “specialized” market by offering what they call “DUI scooters.”

These “DUI scooters” are small, electric mopeds that are bright red and blue, with pedals, headlights and windshields. They don’t go more than 20 miles per hour, though, and they meet the federal description of a “low-speed electric bicycle,” according to an article in the St. Petersburg Times.

In other words, you don’t need a driver’s license to drive one, and those who have had their license suspended because of DUI may have another way to get around.

Doug Vitello and Gary Parr are the owners of Sunset Scooters. They were finding that they couldn’t quite meet the needs of their potential customers, so they did a little research into the DUI laws.

It turned out that the motorized scooter in question was an attractive option for those convicted of a felony or misdemeanor DUI, who had their driver’s license suspended and needed everyday transportation.

And while current Florida law may allow these scooters to be driven without a license, a driver could still face DUI charges if found to be driving one of these under the influence. DUI laws, afterall, apply to the operation of any vehicle, including scooters, boats, lawn mowers and more.

When Vitello and Parr learned this fact, they went searching for a scooter that was legal to drive without a license. They found one, made in China and distributed out of California. Then they put a sign in their window that said “DUI Scooters.”

When they sell a “DUI scooter” to a customer, Sunset Scooters provides customers with a copy of the law that says they are legal to drive without a license. They also recommend that customers laminate the law and carry it with them, to avoid misunderstandings with the police.

“At first we had some trouble with law enforcement basically not understanding what these were,” said Vitello. “Even some judges were completely mystified. But now they all seem to be on board.”

The so-called “DUI scooters,” made by X-treme Scooters and costing upwards of $2,000, look similar to regular motor scooters, if a little smaller, with narrower wheels and the pedals sticking out of the side.

The police in Clearwater were not so sure about the vehicle. Sgt. Tom Nestor told the St. Petersburg Times, “We’ll just say they’re under review for now.” The agency was, according to the article, “trying to determine exactly what these scooters are and how to handle them.”

Word of mouth has spurred the scooter sales. Sunset Scooters now sells around 10 per month. Parr and Vitello say that they came up with the “DUI scooter” term themselves.