Feb

29

Ohio State Trooper Arrested for Driving Drunk at Ridiculous Speed

By Mike

A trooper employed by the Ohio State Highway Patrol was arrested recently for driving 102 miles per hour. And, in addition to his incredible speed, the off-duty officer was also driving under the influence of alcohol.

According to a report from the Mansfield News-Journal, 39-year-old state trooper Tiffany J. Wilson was stopped by police after midnight while she was driving her personal vehicle on Interstate 71 in Morrow County.

Sources say the posted speed limit on the stretch of road where Wilson was arrested is 65 miles per hour, and according to patrol spokeswoman Lt. Anne Ralston, police pulled Wilson over after receiving “several reckless operation calls … regarding a vehicle going northbound on I-71.”

After she was pulled over, Wilson agreed to take a blood alcohol test and blew a .16, which is twice the legal limit in Ohio.

Wilson received a ticket for speeding in addition to the DUI charge, which is her first drunk driving offense. To add embarrassment to an already negative situation, the officer who wrote the ticket was Wilson’s boss, Lt. Toby Smith.

The police spokesman said that Wilson, who is a resident of Mount Gilead, Ohio, has at least temporarily been relieved of her weapon, identification, card, badge, and uniform, and that Wilson has taken a personal leave.

Soon, however, the trooper’s office will place Wilson on administrative duties, which will keep her out of the field while the police conduct an internal investigation to determine whether Wilson deserves further disciplinary actions.

Of course, even if Wilson escapes disciplinary actions from the trooper’s office and maintains her job, which she has had since 2000, she still has to face the potential consequences of a DUI conviction.

Like most citizens, police officers are also subject to the possible punishments of a DUI offense, which may include a jail sentence, a hefty fine, community service requirements, or the loss of a driver’s license.

Feb

27

Court Drops Drunk Driving Charges Against Lucky Chicago Judge

By Mike

A Chicago judge may have escaped the consequences of his alleged drunk driving this week, as an Illinois court dismissed DUI charges against Cook County Judge James Gavin.

Gavin, who was elected to the circuit court in 1996, breathed a heavy sigh of relief last Wednesday after a DuPage County judge dropped the drunk driving charges that prosecutors leveled against him, claiming that there was not enough evidence for a conviction, according to Gavin’s DUI attorney.

According to a report in the Chicago Tribune, Gavin was initially charged in October 2011 with a misdemeanor DUI after an alert police officer pulled him over when Gavin used the shoulder of the road to pass another car.

The police report alleged that the 55-year-old veteran judge failed an eye-gaze test and smelled of alcohol, which led officers to suspect that Gavin was operating his car under the influence of alcohol.

Gavin, however, refused to submit to a blood alcohol test or a field sobriety test. Because of his intransigence, Gavin temporarily lost his license, but may have succeeded in leaving little evidence for prosecutors to prove that he was driving drunk.

And, despite the initial revocation of his license, Judge Liam Brennan, the DuPage County judge assigned to the case, ordered police to return the license to Gavin in December, claiming that the police did not have enough evidence of wrongdoing to pull Gavin over.

Oddly, Brenna told the court last week that the act of veering onto the shoulder of a road, without any further proof of intoxication or impairment, was not enough evidence to allow the case to continue.

In Brennan’s own words, “[t]he problem I have is all the other things that we typically look for to support a DUI arrest simply are not here. Mr. Gavin was polite, oriented to time, place and person. I don’t think in the context of all the other things we expect to see and don’t see that there was reasonable grounds for his arrest.”

A spokesman for the attorney’s office in DuPage County said that prosecutors were forced to drop the case due to Brennan’s ruling, and noted that Gavin still pleaded guilty to his improper shoulder passing maneuver.

For this single charge of illegal passing, Gavin was sentenced to one year of court supervision, which, given the potential financial and social consequences of a DUI conviction, Gavin is likely happy to accept.

Feb

24

Wild Hit-and-Run Driver had Baby in Vehicle While Driving Drunk

By Mike

A hit-and-run DUI driver is facing serious legal trouble after causing an accident while driving under the influence of alcohol with a 2-week-old-infant in his car, according to a recent report from the Napa Valley wing of Patch.com.

Sources indicate that the initial collision occurred on Saturday in the parking lot of a large shopping center in Napa, California. After the accident, the driver that caused the collision sped away from the scene.

The suspect, 23-year-old Adam Steven Gloria, a resident of Napa, was ultimately captured by police, and now faces serious charges, including felony child endangerment and drunk driving.

According to a shift activity log from the City of Napa Police Department, Gloria is currently in jail, awaiting the court’s judgment on his criminal charges, which also include failing to properly secure a child in a vehicle, and recklessly driving while fleeing from the scene of an accident.

After the collision occurred around noon, the victim called police to let them know she had been in an accident in the parking lot of the shopping center and also that the suspect had fled in his vehicle. It seems the victim was unaware that the other driver had children in his car.

Thanks to some witnesses’ identification of Gloria’s vehicle and license plate number, a sheriff’s deputy from Napa County soon located Gloria shortly after the accident.

After police discovered him, Gloria admitted to being involved in the collision, and he also admitted to fleeing the scene, which he said was precipitated by his possession of a suspended license.

Shockingly, though, Gloria had his 2-week-old infant in his car, in addition to two other passengers, when police pulled him over.

The inference sources draw from this discovery is that the baby and the other passengers were in the car at the time of the accident.

Courts have very little patience for drivers who put children at risk by driving drunk with them in the car, so Gloria could face serious jail time for his transgression.

And, in addition to the potential legal consequences of his arrest—including prison time, heavy fines, or a suspended license—Gloria may also have to face civil liability for any injuries he caused to the other driver.

If she wishes to file a civil lawsuit, she may be able to obtain damages from Gloria for damage to her car, physical injuries, or other tangible losses. In other words, Gloria’s legal nightmare may continue for the foreseeable future.

Feb

22

Utah Legislature Moving Towards a Full Ban of DUI Checkpoints

By Mike

Legislators in Utah concerned about the loss of civil liberties have proposed a controversial bill that would ban the use of DUI checkpoints by police, according to a recent article in The Salt Lake Tribune.

The House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee in the Utah Legislature approved HB140, a bill sponsored by Republican Rep. David Butterfield, who argues that the use of checkpoints to catch drunk drivers are an ineffective way of catching dangerous drivers, and unfairly infringe on the civil liberties of Utah residents.

In response, law enforcement officials and opponents of drunk driving have argued that Utah should maintain its system of DUI checkpoints, which they claim helps pull many unsafe drivers off Utah streets.

Butterfield expected to meet strong resistance from many constituents, but he claims that the goals of law enforcement must be balanced by the protection of “constitutional and civil rights.”

To bolster his proposal that his state eliminate DUI checkpoints, Butterfield observes that eleven other states have already banned the practice, and more could soon make a similar decision in the name of civil liberties.

Butterfield also claims that so-called “saturation patrols”—a tactic that varies from checkpoints— generate more arrests than DUI checkpoints, and require fewer police officers. He suggests that these patrols should be used instead of checkpoints.

One police chief in Utah, however, claims that saturation patrols do net more arrests, but they are less effective at catching drivers before they become dangerous.

In his view, checkpoints that detect a drivers’ sobriety through simple visual cues and, in some cases, blood alcohol tests, are much more effective at stopping DUIs before they start.

In addition, Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder says that many people were dying at dangerous canyons near Little Sahara and Lake Powell before police started setting up checkpoints at high-traffic times.

In Winder’s eyes, removing checkpoints from law enforcement’s arsenal of DUI prevention tools would not only reduce DUI arrests, it may result in more fatal accidents caused by drunk driving.

Further, Winder observes that the supreme courts of both Utah and the United States have ruled that DUI checkpoints are constitutional, which seems to undercut Butterfield’s argument to the contrary.

Regardless of whose argument will prevail, the bill still has many hurdles before it becomes a law. After passing the House committee by an 8-5 vote, the bill will now head to the full House for a vote.

Even if it passes the House, however, observers believe that it will face a hard time escaping the Utah Senate, which has historically been a strong proponent of aggressive DUI enforcement tactics.

Feb

21

Homeowner Critically Injured After DUI Driver Crashes into House

By Mike

A man with a history of driving under the influence of alcohol allegedly crashed his pickup truck unto a California condominium, causing serious injuries to a homeowner who remains in critical condition, according to a report from the Los Angeles Times.

According to Lt. Tom Albergo, a police officer in Escondido, California, a 23-year-old man who is believed to be responsible for the accident is currently under police custody on suspicion of drunk driving.

The man, whose name has not yet been released, apparently has a previous DUI conviction, which adds another layer of intrigue to a potentially tragic story.

The crash occurred around 7:30 p.m. last Thursday, after the unnamed man was driving eastbound on Country Club Lane in Escondido when his car suddenly leapt over a curb, struck an electric transformer, and crashed through the back patio of the condo.

A 14-year-old girl inside the condo miraculously suffered only minor injuries when the car drove into her house, but her father, who had been outside on the patio, was pinned under the pickup truck.

The girl’s father suffered critical injuries after being struck by the struck. Firefighters had to pull out him from the wreckage with special equipment, and they later transported him to a hospital where he is being treated for a broken leg, a concussion, and serious facial wounds.

At the time of the accident, two other family members were inside the home, and they are not reporting serious injuries.

For his actions, it is highly likely that the man who caused the accident will be charged with a felony DUI—and perhaps even worse if the injured father does not survive his injuries.

A felony DUI conviction carries very serious consequences, including a long sentence in prison and serious fines. Of course, it may also include a suspended license, although this would seem to be the least of the alleged DUI driver’s current concerns.

The driver’s previous DUI convictions also complicate his defense in court. Judges typically give stronger sentences to drivers who have had other convictions for drunk driving.

While first-time offenders aren’t usually treated with kid gloves, they do often receive lighter sentences than people who have already been hauled into court on suspicion of drunk driving.

So, while the man anxiously awaits word on the condition of the father that he struck, the court will determine how to handle his charges. How soon, exactly, should a man who engaged in such an irresponsible act be allowed to reenter society?

Feb

17

Illegal Immigrant Charged with Felony DUI After Killing Nun in Crash

By Mike

In a tragic scene that seems pulled from a bad Lifetime movie, a young illegal immigrant has been sentenced to 20 years in prison after committing a felony DUI that led to the death of a Catholic nun and severely injured two others.

Late last week, 24-year-old Carlos A. Martinelly-Montano was sentenced to 20 years in prison for a drunk driving accident that occurred in August 2010, according to the Washington Post. The sentencing took place at the Prince William County Courthouse in Mannassas, Virginia.

Sources indicate that Martinelly-Montano had already been convicted of felony murder charges during a trial in October, and had been awaiting news of his sentence for several months.

According to the police report, Martinelly-Montano was driving drunk when he steered his Subaru into a guardrail and then swerved into the opposite lane on a narrow, two-lane stretch of road in Bristow, Virginia.

When he veered into the wrong lane, he struck a blue Toyota Corolla that belonged to three nuns who were members of the Benedictine Sisters of Virginia. The nuns were traveling from Richmond to Bristow for an annual retreat.

The tragic accident led to the death of Sister Denise Mosier. In addition, Sisters Charlotte Lange and Connie Ruth Lipton, both of whom are in their 70s, were badly injured in the wreck.

The high-profile case drew attention not only for the tragic identity of its victims, but also the legal history of the perpetrator.

According to sources, Martinelly-Montano, who was originally from Bolivia, had previously been arrested twice for other drunk driving charges. In addition, before the fatal accident, federal authorities had scheduled a deportation hearing with Martinelly-Montano.

Alas, Martinelly-Montano was not deported, although he claims that his time in jail and the death he caused have led him to “dedicate himself to God.” This journey towards a new faith may have been aided by the injured nuns, who apparently have shown him forgiveness.

Despite this forgiveness, though, Martinelly-Montano must deal with the legal consequences of his actions. At trial, he pled guilty to five different charges, including involuntary manslaughter, driving on a revoked license, getting a third DUI offense in five years, and two counts of maiming while driving under the influence.

All told, the charges carry a maximum sentence of 70 years in prison, which has led some critics to suggest that the judge’s sentence of 20 years was too lenient for Martinally-Montano.

Feb

15

Florida Police Officer Arrested for Second Drunk Driving Offense

By Mike

A sheriff’s deputy with a checkered past from Okaloosa County, Florida has been charged with a DUI after wrecking his motorcycle in an accident late last week, according to a report from the Northwest Florida Daily News.

The deputy, 48-year-old Ted Cason, has been suspended without pay pending an internal police investigation into Cason’s activities last Thursday night.

That night, a bleeding Cason was found lying on the ground next to his fallen motorcycle around 10 p.m. He refused to take a field sobriety test or an alcohol breath test, according to a news release from the Sherriff’s Office.

According to the police citation, however, Cason smelled like alcohol, had a red face and slurred speech, and also had “glassy, watery eyes.” Sources indicate that Cason also told emergency personnel that he had a few drinks that night.

Surprisingly, Cason also admitted that he had lost his .45-caliber gun, and a search by deputies of the crash scene did not reveal the lost weapon. Oddly, the weapon was later found in a holster that Cason was wearing.

This incident would not have been such big news in Florida had in not been for Cason’s past troubles with alcohol. Since he started work with the Okaloosa County Sherriff in 1992, Cason has had other alcohol-related incidents.

In April 2002, for example, Cason was demoted and suspended for a month without pay for a charge that was labeled “improper use of alcohol off duty.”

This clean euphemism referred to an incident when he ran out of gas on a state highway early one morning and called sheriffs from Santa Rosa County for help. According to the police report from the incident, Cason “left little doubt” that he was too drunk to drive, but had nevertheless climbed behind the wheel.

Strangely, officials from Santa Rose County did not bring DUI charges against Cason because he was not behind the wheel of his car when they arrived.

In his own report, Cason admitted that he had made a mistake, agreed to undergo counseling to address potential problems with alcohol, and promised that such an incident would never happen again.

In addition to this mishap, Cason was also investigated in 2008 after an alleged victim accused him of aggravated assault with a firearm (the incident also included allegations of alcohol abuse).

Fortunately for Cason, though, the victim dropped the charges, and the internal investigation into the matter was never completed.

Finally, in April 2011, Cason left his unmarked car overnight in a public parking lot with a gun clearly lying in the back seat. An alert deputy picked up the car and returned it to Cason’s house. Again, no disciplinary action was taken after this incident.

Feb

13

Pardoned DUI Convict May Have Caused Fatal Accident After Release

By Mike

Haley Barbour, the former governor of Mississippi, raised many eyebrows after he pardoned more than 200 convicted felons in his home state when he left office. One of these pardons has already come back to haunt him.

In January, Barbour pardoned Harry Bostisk, who was a convicted DUI felon residing in a jail in Oxford, Mississippi, according to a report this week from CNN.com.

Bostick was in a jail cell awaiting charges from a drunk driving accident involving the death of 18-year-old Charity Smith. Fault for the accident has yet to be determined, but Bostick’s presence in jail wasn’t only related to the fatal accident.

Sources indicate that Bostick was initially thrown into jail for violating the terms of his probation that had been a result of a previous DUI sentence. In fact, Bostick appears to have a long record of drunk driving problems and subsequent good fortune with the police and court system in Mississippi.

According to CNN, Bostick was arrested for a felony drunk driving offense in March 2009. That incident was Bostick’s third arrest for drunk driving in a little more than a year, which is a staggeringly high rate of DUI arrests.

After his third DUI arrest, Bostick was eventually sentenced in March 2010 to a year of house arrest and four years in an alcohol treatment program, which had strict guidelines for repeat offenders.

During the beginning stages of this program, which occurred through the state’s drug court, Bostick began lobbying the governor for a pardon. Bostick had several high-profile friends send letters to the governor, claiming that Bostick’s behavior could be explained by a recent divorce with his wife and the recent death of his son in a freak house fire.

These letters, apparently, had an effect on the governor, as he eventually pardoned Bostick after receiving advice from the Mississippi Parole Board, which recommended a pardon by a vote of 3-2.

And, according to sources, one week after Bostick allegedly caused the fatal accident that resulted in the death of 18-year-old Charity Smith, he was unceremoniously released from jail.

State officials claim that Bostick had been pardoned before the accident, and that they did not realize he had caused the fatal accident when they released him from jail.

Of course, while charges have not officially been filed, the case is already a nightmare for the Mississippi Parole Board and Haley Barbour. Critics of the former governor were already claiming that he had abused his pardon privileges, and this incident simply adds fuel to their arguments.

Feb

10

Judges Draw Criticism for Taking Licenses Before DUI Convictions

By Mike

The phrase “innocent until proven guilty” is a cornerstone of American jurisprudence, but this mantra does not always apply when it comes to people who are accused of drunken driving.

Judges in Northampton County. Pennsylvania have faced scrutiny from private citizens who are concerned about the courts’ practice of revoking driver’s licenses before suspected DUI drivers are actually convicted for their crimes, according to a recent report from The Morning Call, a newspaper in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley.

In a practice that occurs in states across the country every day, judges in this Pennsylvania county reportedly have been revoking suspected drunk drivers’ licenses before they receive a trial to determine their guilt.

Judge Leonard Zito, who works in Easton, Pennsylvania, has started to revoke the driver’s licenses of people who he believes are dragging their feet in court.

According to Zito, taking these licenses early in the process helps speed up the DUI court process and potentially protects other drivers on the roads.

One DUI attorney, however, has joined several other legal practitioners in criticizing this maneuver, claiming that revoking a person’s license is akin to presuming that person’s guilt.

There are many features of modern trials that enhance the appearance of a person’s guilt. Presence in front of the court, for example, suggests that a person has done something wrong—and there’s little judges can do to dispel this presumption.

The revocation of a license does seem to strongly suggest that a driver is indeed guilty of a DUI, but it does burden them with a consequence that could otherwise be dealt only after a trial, well before that person receives the due process he or she is entitled to under the Constitution.

Of course, while lawyers will continue to challenge such decisions, public safety concerns seem to trump other factors when the merits of revoking driver’s licenses are debated.

Judges simply don’t want the risk of suspected DUI drivers getting into potentially fatal accidents while they await their hearings.

Still, many advocates for criminal defendants claim that the damage such actions do to the presumption of innocence outweigh any real or perceived public health risks.

The debate, it’s fair to say, will likely continue as long as the judges across the country continue this controversial practice.

Feb

7

Star NFL Rookie Aldon Smith Charged with Drunk Driving

By Mike

Aldon Smith, a rookie linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers, was charged late last week with driving under the influence of alcohol, according to a report from the New York Daily News.

The arrest occurred in Miami Beach, a favorite hangout of professional athletes and people who like to encounter professional athletes.

Jail records obtained from Miami-Dade County authorities show that Smith was booked on Saturday night for drunk driving and that he was being held on a $1,000 bond.

A spokesperson for Miami-Dade County Corrections told reporters that Smith had indeed been arrested by Miami Beach police, but did not offer any specifics as to the nature of the arrest.

In a statement released just hours after the arrest, the San Francisco 49ers acknowledge that they were aware of the arrest, but, perhaps not surprisingly, refused to comment on the matter.

According to the team’s statement, the organization “takes these issues very seriously, but will reserve further comment at this time, as it is an ongoing legal matter.” The team did claim, though, that it would “continue to gather the facts and monitor the developments closely.”

The arrest comes as a black eye for both Aldon Smith and the 49ers, which lost in heartbreaking fashion last week to the New York Giants in the NFC Championship Game.

Before their loss, however, the 49ers had experienced a wildly successful season, as new coach Jim Harbaugh oversaw a dramatic change in fortune for the previously moribund franchise.

A major part of the team’s success was its league-leading defense, which was bolstered by the sterling play of Smith, who had 14 sacks from his defensive end position in 2011. The 14 sacks ranked first in the NFL among rookies.

Smith, who was drafted in the first round as the seventh overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft, entered the league with high expectations, and certainly fulfilled them during his first year by setting the franchise record for sacks by a rookie.

The recent arrest, however, has ended Smith’s honeymoon phase with the franchise. If he is indeed convicted on the DUI charges, Smith could also receive some form of punishment from the team.

While the law typically gives first-time drunk drivers some jail time, heavy fines, or a suspension of their license, professional athletes often face fines or suspensions from their teams, as well.

In some circumstances, professional league offices also step in to mete out some punishment, although it remains to be seen if Smith will draw the ire of the NFL commissioner’s office.

Feb

6

Proposed Law Would Expunge DUI Arrests After 5 Years

By Mike

Lawmakers in Georgia have proposed a bill that would allow defendants to have their DUI arrests expunged from their records after five years of good behavior.

The proposal, not surprisingly, has garnered plenty of criticism in the state, particularly from the local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, according to a report from WSB TV.

Barry Martin, the executive director of Georgia’s chapter of MADD, says he was surprised that anyone would even propose such a bill, as it could reduce the deterrent effect offered by harsher DUI sentencing.

Supporters of the bill, however, argue that it will give people who were convicted of drunk driving a second chance, and that it will reward people who learn to drive responsibly after their arrests.

The bill, which is labeled House Bill 799, would allow evidence of a DUI to be “permanently expunged” and “completely removed” from the record of the person who was previously convicted, provided that he or she maintain a completely clean driving record for five years.

Such a strategy would reward drivers for good behavior after their convictions, and potentially help people who have a hard time securing a job due to their criminal record.

The bill, however, does not distinguish between first-time offenders and people who have been arrested for multiple DUI offenses, according to Martin.

In addition, Martin claims that the proposed DUI law does not distinguish between DUI arrests that do not involve an accident and those that involve injuries or fatalities.

By refusing to distinguish between the nature and number of DUI arrests experienced by one person, Martin claims, the government is putting itself at a disadvantage and may potentially be clearing the records of people who are dangerous to the community.

Georgia police also hint that removing past DUI arrests from a person’s record could hamper police investigations into drunk driving accidents.

However, despite the criticisms, supporters of the bill emphasize that a record of a DUI conviction can have a permanently negative influence on an individual, and that people who change their habits shouldn’t be punished their entire life for one offense.

The one-page bill raises interesting questions about the merits of privacy and forgiveness, and the alternative interests of the community as a whole to protect pedestrians and other drivers.

State lawmakers across the country will undoubtedly follow the progress of Georgia House Bill 799, as its passage could suggest shifting attitudes towards DUI punishment.

Feb

3

Alleged DUI Driver Steers Into Busy Train Tunnel

By Mike

Experts often advise inebriated people to take public transportation rather than risk getting a DUI by driving home, but the worst possible choice is to try to combine driving and public transportation.

This dangerous mixture, however, recently occurred in San Francisco when an alleged drunk driver steered his SUV into the start of an underground train tunnel, which, predictably, caused a bit of chaos.

The driver, 40-year-old Scott Mitchell, a resident of Sebastopol, California, was charged with three different crimes, including driving under the influence, after speeding into a municipal train tunnel at 6 a.m. last Thursday morning.

Mitchell was able to progress at a clip of roughly 40 miles per hour in the inbound direction of the morning trains. His progress was stopped about a half mile into the tunnel when his car became lodged between the tracks.

Tyonne Julian, a city employee who witnessed the bizarre event, claims that Mitchell actually switched tracks halfway through his tunnel drive in order to miss an oncoming train. Observers noted that it was a miracle that Mitchell didn’t ram into a train.

When Julian saw the crazed driver, he radioed city officials to stop the morning train traffic, which was put on hold for more than two hours as cleanup crews made the tracks safe again for train travel.

Of course, this two-hour delay occurred during a weekday downtown rush hour, which caused untold frustration among the hundreds of thousands of San Francisco commuters who were adversely affected that morning.

For his efforts, police charged Mitchell with a strange combination of violations, including driving under the influence of alcohol, driving on train tracks, and failing to obey a traffic sign (which, presumably, warned drivers that the train tunnel was not, in fact, for vehicles).

And while Mitchell may have failed to correctly practice the art of taking public transportation when drunk, he was at least honing in on the correct form of transit.

For people who like to drink, and have the advantage of living in a metropolitan area, forms of public transportation such as the bus or a train offer a safe, often enjoyable way to get home.

Even people under the influence of all sorts of substances typically have the capacity to climb aboard a train or bus and stumble out at the appropriate exit. Buses and trains have likely saved countless drivers from unwanted drunk driving arrests.

Of course, trains and buses aren’t the only alternative form of transportation for people who’ve had too many drinks. If, for example, you have extra cash on hand, taxis offer a more expensive, but equally safe form of transit.

On the other hand, if you are poor in cash but rich in friends, calling someone else to drive you home or designating a sober driver at the beginning of the night can help ensure that you get home without an encounter with angry police.