Residents of the large southern state claim that everything is bigger in Texas. A grisly recent story suggests that this adage applies to the magnitude of DUI incidents, as well.
After bizarre incident, a Texas man has been accused of striking a pedestrian on a Houston freeway, then failing to recognize that the victim had crashed through the passenger-side window.
According to sources, the victim of the accident, a 32-year-old man, had broken down on the side of Interstate 45 and was running back and forth across the highway seeking help.
At some point, James John Onak approached in his black Mazda and allegedly struck the man. The force of the impact sent the man flying through Onak’s windshield, killing him instantly.
The death of the pedestrian is certainly tragic by itself, but the police report reveals a truly bizarre ending to the tale.
After the impact, Onak continued driving down the highway until he was pulled over by local police two miles down the road after the police saw severe damage to the front end of Onak’s car.
When the officers discovered the man’s body in Onak’s car, the driver simply stated that he had hit something earlier but did not recall what it was. The police claim that Onak did not recognize the presence of the dead body in his car until he left the vehicle.
One of the officers on the scene, using a keen intuitive sense, detected that Onak might be driving under the influence of alcohol or drug.
After performing a mandatory blood draw, the police later charged Onak with driving while intoxicated, also known as a DWI arrest.
Onak was also charged with a felony for failing to stop and render aid, as well as a felony for causing an accident involving injury.
If he is convicted on all the charges, Onak could spend two to 10 years in prison. Sources also anticipate that Onak could face more charges as the police continue to investigate the bizarre accident.
While the story suggests that Onak could spend a significant amount of time behind bars, one Houston police officer warns that is conceivable that Onak simply did not see the man enter his vehicle through the windshield.
This is unlikely, but Onak’s alleged failure to witness the man’s death could provide him a strong defense.
Onak’s fate will likely not be determined for at least a few months, but his legacy has already been solidified in the minds of the officers who responded to the scene.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this one says it all. Two on-duty Miami police officers mug and smile for the camera while surrounded by five young women celebrating a bachelorette party July 2 at the Clevelander hotel.
Later the same night, one of the officers, Derick Kuilan, took the bachelorette for a joyride on a department-owned ATV, crashing into and seriously injuring two innocent beachgoers.
The picture was released Tuesday by Miami-Dade prosecutors as they charged Kuilan with two felony counts of reckless driving with serious bodily injury and two counts of DUI with serious bodily injury. The second officer, Rolando Gutierrez, does not face criminal charges.
“It is mind-boggling that they felt comfortable enough to do something like that,” Miami Beach Police Chief Carlos Noriega told the Miami Herald.
Both officers have been fired from the department since the time of the incident.
Details of what allegedly happened are outlined in a warrant prepared by prosecutor David I. Gilbert and Miami Beach detective Robert Silvagni:
Derick Kuilan was assigned to ATV patrol, midnight shift, on July 3 and Officer Rolando Gutierrez was assigned to patrol mid-Beach.
That night, the pair of officers walked into the Clevelander hotel bar, a known attraction for tourists, around 5 a.m.
A group of young women from Pennsylvania were celebrating a bachelorette party when the officers arrived. After posing for a picture with the group, Kuilan and Gutierrez began dancing and drinking.
Kuilan then invited the bachelorette, Adalee Martin, to take a ride with him on the ATV he had parked nearby, to which Martin agreed.
The two drove south along the beach at alternating speeds, turning the headlights on and off as they neared approaching pedestrians. When they arrived at the end of the beach and turned around, they drove back north with the vehicle’s lights turned off.
On the drive back, the ATV crashed into Kitzie Nicanor and Luis Almonte, who were on the beach dipping their feet in the water. Bystanders claimed that the ATV whizzed by and that “they could barely see it, because it had no lights on and it was traveling fast,” according to the warrant.
Almonte suffered a broken femur, requiring surgery, while Nicanor had to have her spleen removed and remains hospitalized in serious condition.
Kuilan surrendered to the Miami-Dade County Jail after being charged Tuesday and has already posted $30,000 bail. His arraignment is scheduled for Aug. 25.
By Chris Kramer
A judge in rural Ravalli County in northwestern Montana recently sent a message to a state that, among other notorieties, saw a local representative try to repeal DUI laws this year.
Judge James Haynes sentenced Scott Adams, a 40 year-old Montana resident, to 15 years in state prison after Adams was convicted of driving under the influence for the sixth time.
Adams, who lives in Stevensville, Montana, has previously received three probationary sentences for his drinking and driving habits. The judge revoked these sentences when he issued his final decree.
According to The Missoulian, Adams’ sixth DUI charge violated three probationary sentences stemming from previous drunk driving incidents.
The first sentence was due to a 2005 incident in which Adams was charged with seven different crimes after a drunk driving accident. He was eventually charged with a felony DUI—his fifth such offense—and received a five-year suspended sentence.
In 2005, Adams also completed a rehabilitation and treatment program.
This incident, however, came on the heels of a 2004 accident in which Adams received another felony DUI charge—his fourth such conviction.
This crime revoked a third probationary sentence he’d received in 1998 after being charged with felony burglary and forgery. This sentence, though, was reduced to misdemeanor theft after Adams agreed to a six-year probationary period.
This long history of criminal behavior came back to haunt Adams after DUI number six. Adams’ own probation officer stated in a report that Adams saw felony probation as “somewhat of a game.”
His probation officer also reported that Adams would not stop drinking and driving until he “hurts or kills someone.” Fortunately, it appears no one was injured in his latest binge, but the judge also felt that Adams posed a serious threat to others.
Adams must serve five years in prison for each of his last three felony DUI charges. In addition, he must serve a year in a detention center for the past theft charges.
The judge saw imprisonment as the only possible method to keep Adams off Montana’s highways.
The dangers of drunk driving have been a hot topic in Montana after a state representative made an impassioned plea earlier this year for the state to repeal its drunk driving laws.
He argued that DUI laws were preventing people from going to local drinking establishments, thereby hurting the local economy.
Alas, this idea never came to pass, but it did stir up some national press coverage, to the chagrin of many Montana residents.
The results of blood alcohol tests—commonly administered via breathalyzers—often mean the difference between jail sentences and freedom for drivers who are pulled over for allegedly driving under the influence.
These tests, however, may sometimes malfunction. According to a press release in the San Francisco Chronicle, a few cities in the Bay Area recently reviewed hundreds of DUI cases that involved the use of faulty breathalyzers.
Some observers believe that the problem with breathalyzers extends beyond a few faulty machines. In fact, the fundamental technology and interpretation of breathalyzer results may have flaws, as well.
First, there is the threat of condensation. These blood alcohol testing machines are used more than once, and some critics claim that the breath of one person may remain on the machine until it is used by someone else.
Unless a test is given that can be used once and only once, this problem is likely to remain.
In addition, breathalyzers test for a number of different chemicals in the body, rather than just alcohol. Some people claim this broad scope may skew the alcohol-related results.
Third, the blood alcohol testers are designed to study the “average” person. If someone falls outside the average range—for example, if a person is very small or unusually large—the machine might find that person intoxicated even though he or she is able to pass field sobriety tests.
Fourth, breathalyzers have faced criticism because of the machine’s built-in margins of error. Most prosecuting attorneys will admit that the tests have margins of error of about .01 percent.
While this may seem like a minor defect, the legal blood alcohol limit is only .08. Thus, if someone has a .07 blood alcohol level, a potential breathalyzer error could have drastic consequences.
Moreover, the same machine often provides different testing results for the same person within just a few minutes. In order for breathalyzer results to be admissible as evidence, police officers must get a suspect to blow two different readings within .02 percent of each other.
Again, this seems like a relatively small difference, but DUI arrests are often determined by fractions of a percent.
In addition, margins of error not only decide the line between driving under the influence and legal driving, they may also determine whether a person has committed a misdemeanor offense or a more serious DUI crime – which may increase the penalties from a mere fine to a prison sentence.
While breathalyzers are not perfect, they do provide an efficient, objective means for police officers to determine the level of a driver’s intoxication.
Until a more reliable method of measuring intoxication is discovered, breathalyzer tests are likely here to stay.
Quick: What do rocker-turned-actor Rick Springfield and rapper Flo Rida have in common? If you answered “an affinity for catchy music,” you would be partially correct.
But the most accurate answer is that both celebrities were recently arrested for driving under the influence. Their stories serve as warnings for other drivers that state authorities take drunk driving very seriously.
According to the vigilant celebrity-stalking website TMZ, Rick Springfield faces two misdemeanor DUI charges after an arrest this May in Malibu for allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol.
The rocker, famous for his hit single “Jessie’s Girl,” allegedly had a blood alcohol content of .10 after he was pulled over by Los Angeles County sheriffs. If accurate, this would be over the legal BAC limit of .08.
According to the police report, Springfield was less than a gentleman during the encounter, as he reportedly told cops that he would “kill you and your family” if they towed his car.
Springfield’s concerns about the car were somewhat understandable, as the vehicle in question was a 1963 Corvette Stingray that cost roughly $200,000.
The police took this threat in good spirits, as a department spokesperson admitted that it is “rare” for drunk driving suspects to not say something “outlandish” to police when they are arrested.
If he is convicted on the two misdemeanor DUI charges, Springfield faces a maximum of 6 months in jail and a fine of $1,000.
In other celebrity DUI news, rapper Flo Rida was also arrested this summer after police found him swerving across lanes at 3:30 in the morning in, of all places, Florida.
After police pulled him over, the rapper failed field sobriety tests, at one point asking the officers to try something else because he couldn’t do their prescribed tests.
He was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence and later he allegedly blew a .183 during his BAC test at the police station – more than double the legal limit. In addition, police found that he was driving with a suspended license.
Flo Rida, however, gets some credit for driving a more expensive car than his California celebrity counterpart. The rapper was driving a 2008 Bugatti, which is reportedly worth at least $1.7 million.
The lesson here is that swerving across traffic lanes in cars worth more than nice houses is likely to draw the attention of police.
Future wealthy celebrities would be well advised to use their ample funds to call a cab rather than run the risk of being caught behind the wheel with blood alcohol contents that mock the legal limit.
The Fourth of July is usually associated with the usual suspects of fireworks, booze, and hot dogs. Unfortunately, the holiday has also become notorious for the number of DUI arrests that occur during the festivities.
This trend grew more pronounced in many areas this year. From Biloxi, Mississippi, to Santa Clara, California, several cities across the country saw a significant spike in DUI arrests over the holiday weekend.
First, according to local sources, a total of 214 drivers were cited for driving under the influence in Mississippi during the mid-summer festivities. This represented a 27 percent jump over the number of DUI arrests at the same time last year.
In the entire state, troopers reported issuing more than 5,000 traffic citations, although a significant number of these violations were not alcohol-related.
During the weekend, Mississippi troopers responded to a total of 130 accidents. Roughly 40 of these had injuries and one resulted in a fatality, although this was also not due to drunk driving.
More collisions and citations occurred on the Gulf Coast, where traffic becomes particularly dense during the weekend.
This rising DUI trend was not limited to genteel southern states. Across the country in California, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office reported an even more dramatic 33 percent increase in the number of DUI arrests during the holiday, although the statistics show the jump could be as high as 50 percent.
In this year’s anti-DUI crackdown, county officials arrested 141 people for driving under the influence. During a similar campaign on the Fourth of July last year, officers arrested a mere 94 drivers for driving while intoxicated.
Law enforcement officials were stumped when asked for an explanation of the rising numbers, claiming that DUI figures had dropped in recent years, especially over Memorial Day weekend.
The weekend also saw five DUI-related car accidents in Santa Clara County, but no fatalities were reported. The city plans to aggressively enforce DUI laws during Labor Day weekend this September.
The jump in DUI arrests during this party-filled weekend is somewhat typical, as police officers are often more vigilant about establishing checkpoints and more carefully monitoring drivers’ behavior.
As a result, holiday weekends also see a rise in the use of public transportation, carpooling, and taxis to avoid the legal consequences of an arrest for drunk driving.
A DUI charge, however, does not have to cripple your reputation or your finances. If you’ve been charged with driving under the influence, a local DUI lawyer may help you fight the charge.
By Chris Kramer
Perhaps the most important rule for people fighting DUI accusations is to be sober when making court appearances. A former sheriff’s deputy in Orange County, California, failed to heed this rule, and will face the consequences.
Allan James Waters, 38, had been facing a likely sentence of 16 months in prison for his conviction on several counts, including a felony DUI and charges that he had illegally tried to obtain prescription medicines.
Waters, however, appeared at his first sentencing hearing with slurred speech and an inability to keep his balance. Waters was then placed in police custody for several weeks after the judge said he was in no condition to be sentenced.
Several weeks later, the judge finally doubled his sentence to 32 months due to Waters’ previous behavior in the courtroom.
A term of Waters’ initial $100,000 bail was that he had to remain sober. After Waters appeared drunk at his initial hearing, the judge ordered him back into police custody and raised his bail to $250,000.
The Los Angeles Times reports that Waters had been involved in a messy accident and had a history of other felony violations.
In April, Waters pled guilty to felony driving under the influence causing bodily injury after an accident involving a serious injury to a 78 year-old woman.
Waters’ legal problems, though, extended beyond the DUI charge. He was also charged with two felony counts of selling a substance in lieu of cocaine and nine felony counts of fraudulently obtaining a controlled substance.
The DUI accident occurred in March 2010 when Waters crashed into the back of a car at a red light. Sources indicate that Waters spoke with other deputies for about 30 minutes after the accident and then promptly left the scene.
The officers’ decision to let Waters leave the scene of the first accident proved to be a mistake.
Later that same day, Waters was still driving under the influence when he swerved into oncoming traffic and struck a vehicle driven by an elderly woman. The impact was so severe that the woman needed back surgery after the accident.
Toxicology reports later revealed that Waters had been under the influence of the prescription drugs zolpidem and hydrocodone.
After the initial traffic collision, Waters’ behavior did not improve. He was cited for trading fake cocaine for prescription drugs and trying to illegally obtain drugs from doctors.
To no one’s surprise, Waters has been relieved of his duties as a sheriff’s deputy.