Friday Fallout: Convicted Of Drunk Driving Seventeen Years Later

convicted of drunk drivingYou can run and you can hide, but if you’ve killed someone because of drunk driving, you might not be able to hide forever. At least that’s what happened to one man who’s recently been convicted of drunk driving in New York State seventeen years after his crash.

Way back in 1999 a man named Benjamin Carrera was driving drunk and crashed his car. His passenger died, and although he did try to plead guilty at the time, the judge let him free on bond because he couldn’t remember enough details about the crash for the judge to accept his plea. That’s when he decided to leave town, and he managed to skip out on his drunk driving crash for almost two decades.

When he was found recently, living in Virginia, it was only because he was arrested for drunk driving again. Living under an assumed name, he made the decision to drop the act and finally stand for his 1999 crash using an Alford plea, something occasionally used by people who may be convicted of drunk driving, where the offender pleads guilty without making an admission of guilt.

Back when the crash happened in 1999, New York was in the middle of a drunk driving crack down. In New York city a controversial policy had just been ordered where police could seize the vehicle of someone who driving drunk. If that person was convicted, he or she could lose their car forever.

Times have changed, and now penalties for someone convicted of drunk driving in New York involves a driver’s license suspension, possible jail time, fines, and an ignition interlock if and when they receive their driver’s license back. This case is slightly different; because Carrera left town, he’s facing up to nine years in prison for manslaughter and extra time for bail jumping.

It just goes to show, the fallout from drinking and driving can derail you life, even seventeen years later.

Do New York Ignition Interlock Users Need To Be Forced To Comply?

new york ignition interlockThere’s a huge push when a state changes its driving under the influence (DUI) laws to include an ignition interlock law, but once the Governor has signed off and the law becomes active, the work shifts to keeping on top of offenders and ensuring they comply with the new requirements.

28 states now require ignition interlocks for all offenders, and all 28 states have experienced some growing pains as first offenders adapt to new ignition interlock penalties. Case in point? A widely publicized audit in New York brought attention to the fact that less than 5% of the offenders required to were installing their interlocks. This audit might have been the motivation law enforcement needed to turn things around, because police are starting to crack down on offenders.

That’s what happened to a Rochester man recently. He was driving in his vehicle, police stopped him because they spotted him using his cell phone, and found out quickly that he shouldn’t been driving at all. Turns out he was required to drive with an ignition interlock device because of a drunk driving conviction, and he clearly wasn’t doing so.

The offender stated that he didn’t realize he couldn’t drive other vehicles without the ignition interlock. He thought it was only his own that needed to have the device installed, and because his van with the interlock was in for service, he was driving his mother’s car.

According to DWI laws in New York State, if you’re required to install an interlock, you can’t drive without one. That means any vehicle, even your mom’s car, is off limits unless it has an interlock installed.

A penalty is a penalty for a reason, and the reason why states vote in all offender ignition interlocks laws is because they work. In this case, it’s a good lesson for the driver, and it goes to show that New York police are starting to notice when an offender isn’t complying.

Want To Stop Drunk Driving? Ignition Interlock Compliance Is Key

ignition interlock complianceIf you ask Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and local law enforcement, they’ll tell you that there’s no question ignition interlocks work to stop drunk drivers. That’s why so many states have worked hard to pass all offender ignition interlock laws, and that’s why so many people who have lost a loved one are petitioning to bring a ignition interlock to every drunk driving offender in non-interlock states.

For an ignition interlock to work, only one thing needs to be done: it has to be actually installed in the offender’s car. Unfortunately this doesn’t seem to be happening as often as it should be. Take Queens, New York for example: the State Controller did an audit of ignition interlock compliance in the area and found that the Queens District Attorney’s Office was non-compliant. That meant they weren’t keeping track of whether the convicted offenders were installing their court-ordered ignition interlocks.

Out of all of the offenders, the audit discovered that only 20.3% who were court-ordered actually installed the device. This data was tracked since back in August of 2010, and to get around the requirement some of these offenders signed an affidavit saying they didn’t own a car or have access to a car anymore.

Turns out the DA in Queens didn’t actually check to see if those offenders were being truthful about not owning cars. It didn’t stop there though: when it came to the offenders who actually had the ignition interlock installed, turns out the DA didn’t let the court know when an interlock violation had occurred.

There are two major problems with this: if there’s no follow up on convicted offenders who say they don’t own a vehicle, you’ll never know if they’ve just decided to drive without a license. As for the violations, if you don’t hold offenders accountable for their violations, the penalty isn’t going to be as effective as it could be.

Accordingly to a spokesperson for the DA, the office is taking steps to ensure they fix the problems raised by the audit. That’s a good thing, because ignition interlocks only work if the offender is actually using one. Without an interlock, that offender is just another person driving on a suspended license, and we all know that can turn out badly very quickly.

State Drunk Driving Laws Mean No Two Sentences Are Equal

drunk driving laws Once you’re charged with drunk driving, how you’re sentenced really depends on the state you live in, your drunk driving laws, and the judge presiding over your case.

No two drunk driving sentences are alike. Take a look at four of these offender’s sentences as an example.

Repeat offender in Sycamore, Illinois

After an officer stopped him when driving erratically through a drive-thru, one man declined the breathalyzer and tried to hide in his truck. His previous conviction included a crash in 2010, and although he was charged with aggravated driving under the influence and aggravated driving under with a suspended or revoked license, he was only convicted of aggravated driving while license revoked. His sentence of 180 days in jail may have been longer had prosecutors successfully demonstrated he was drunk driving.

Rome, New York woman convicted for drunk driving crash

Amy Dell is going to prison thanks to a drunk driving crash that killed another driver. She was driving down the wrong side of the road when she hit another car, and now she’ll spend anywhere from eight to 25 years in prison for her crime.

Crash in Wisconsin gets driver nine years in jail

A 28-year-old repeat offender pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter after a crash killed the passenger in her vehicle. A Wisconsin judge sentenced her to nine years in prison and five years of probation when she’s released.

Hockey Hall of Famer gets driver’s license suspensions

Ray Bourque, a former Boston Bruin and Hockey Hall of Famer was arrested after he rear-ended a mini-van with his car. He was given a breathalyzer test and his blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was .249. It was his first offense, and he received a 45-day driver’s license suspension plus an 180 day driver’s license suspension for refusing the breathalyzer.

These are just a few examples of how drunk driving laws and judicial process can affect sentencing of offenders. Even if you’ve been arrested for drunk driving one time, there’s no guarantee you’ll walk away without stiff penalties. If you’ve been arrested for drunk driving and you’re worried that you’ll be prosecuted to the max under your state’s drunk driving laws, go and see a lawyer. If you haven’t been charged with drunk driving, just keep in the mind that the best way to avoid this situation completely is to not drink and drive.

 

Babysitter Charged With New York’s Leandra’s Law

Leandra's Law New YorkIf a person is determined to drink and drive or they think drinking and driving isn’t a big deal, it can be really hard to stop them. From the moment he or she pulls out of the driveway or parking lot that driver is a danger to themselves and others, and it’s even worse if they have innocent passengers in the vehicle.

That’s why there are laws like Leandra’s Law. Named for Leandra Rosado, an 11-year-old girl who was killed when her friend’s mother drove drunk and flipped her car, Leandra’s Law was signed into New York law in 2009. It states that any driver who drinks and drives with a person under the age of 15 or younger in the vehicle will receive an automatic felony on his or her first offense.

It’s hard to believe that anyone would think it was OK to drive drunk with children in the vehicle, but Leandra’s Law is put into play more frequently than you’d think. One of the recent cases involved an underage drinking driver and the four children she was babysitting.

She was caught in a mall parking lot after someone noticed her wandering, unable to find her vehicle, with four small children in tow. That person called 911 to report an intoxicated driver, and she pulled her own vehicle across the exit so the young woman couldn’t leave until the police arrived.

Turns out, the driver was only 19 years old, and she was babysitting the four children who were passengers in her car. She’s received multiple charges including driving while intoxicated (DWI) and a violation of Leandra’s Law, aggravated DWI with a child passenger 15 years or younger.

It’s bad enough when you drink and drive on your own, but it’s unthinkable to put the life or lives of innocent children in danger. This driver has learned that at a very young age, and hopefully that felony charge sets the tone for this young girl and anyone reading her story. When kids are involved, a first offense can stay with you for a long time.

Ignition interlocks Work, So Why Aren’t New Yorkers Using Them?

ignition interlocks new yorkIgnition interlocks work, and they work well. Mothers Against Drunk Driving has stood up in support of the devices as the best method to stop repeat drunk drivers from driving drunk again, and 26 states currently have all offender ignition interlock laws.

But ignition interlocks can only help rehabilitate an offender if that person is held accountable for their violations. Violations can happen if someone tries to drive while drunk but the ignition interlock stops him or her. You can also get a violation if you try to tamper with the interlock by trying to remove it or disarm it.

That’s why its so surprising that a state comptroller review of New York interlock use found that the six counties reviewed weren’t consistently reporting violations to the district attorney and court. These are violations that could have resulted in the offender losing the privilege to drive with an ignition interlock, and without it, they couldn’t get behind the wheel of a vehicle at all for at least a year.

The overall findings of the review included county officials not reporting violations and county monitors not reporting installations that were late or not installed at all.

This review comes on the tail of another report from the state comptroller’s office. That report indicated that ignition interlock devices were only installed in 5% of all driving while intoxicated (DWI) cases in New York City. This happened despite the fact that the court ordered the offender to install them.

It seems crazy that New York isn’t following up on ignition interlocks, especially considering it’s well known that they save lives. It’s even crazier that state officials seem to be letting repeat offenders skirt their penalties, because its those penalties that will stop them from re-offending again and again.

Let’s hope these reports help change officials minds about holding offenders accountable, and that there will soon be a report showing the increase in ignition interlock compliance in New York State.

Drunk Driving Charge Dropped Because Driver Brews Alcohol In Her Gut

drunk-driving-charge

Image from Newhope360.com

If you’ve driven drunk and submitted to a breathalyzer test, a drunk driving charge is a hard thing to beat. Driving under the influence (DUI) lawyers will assist you in your defense and help you navigate the legal system as far as your penalties are concerned, but for many drunk drivers, if you’ve done the crime you’ll do the time.

But that’s not what happened to a school teacher from New York when she went to court for a drunk driving charge. She came bearing proof that she was suffering from auto-brewery syndrome, otherwise known as ‘gut fermentation,’ and it was a successful defense because her body essentially takes high-carbs food and brews its own alcohol.

It all started when the 35 year old was spotted driving erratically and pulled over by police. When they asked her to submit to a breathalyzer test she blew 0.33, so she was arrested on a drunk driving charge. When she and her attorney appeared in court they provided documentation indicating that she suffered from gut fermentation and wasn’t drunk driving at all. The judge approved her documents and dismissed the charges against her.

Gut fermentation is such a rare medical condition that there have only been a few cases reported in the past 30 years. One man in Texas was also diagnosed with gut fermentation in 2010 after his wife used a breathalyzer to test his blood alcohol concentration (BAC) every day for a month. Even on the days he hadn’t been drinking at all, he would blow 0.40 on a breathalyzer, and he ended up in the hospital with a .037 BAC. After the doctors performed a battery of tests they found he had an overgrowth of yeast in his gut, and discovered that when the yeast ferments, it turns carbohydrates into ethanol alcohol. After he was cured of gut fermentation with anti-fungal medications, he’s now registering 0 on a breathalyzer.

Thankfully for this woman, she can walk away from court with no real harm done. That’s not the usual course of action when someone has been arrested on a drunk driving charge, so this is a great reminder not to drink and drive.

Drunk Driving Crashes Can Cause Injuries That Last A Lifetime

drunk-driving-crashes-survivorsThere’s no question that drunk driving crashes claim the lives of thousands of people each year throughout the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were 10,076 people killed in alcohol-related crashes in 2013 alone.

Those fatalities are devastating, but when you’re just looking at numbers and data it’s all too easy to overlook another statistic: the people who survived those crashes, and it’s safe to say that the majority of those drunk driving crashes were no simple fender benders.

Because of the speed and violence that’s often involved, the impact of has the potential to cause critical injury to anyone unfortunate enough to be involved in a drunk driving crash. That’s exactly what happened to a police officer from New York State who recently died from injuries he sustained in a drunk driving crash, only his injuries happened nearly 18 years ago.

When a drunk driver sailed straight through a red light in 1998, he crashed into Sgt. Donald Conniff, an officer who was on his way to work for the day. He was ejected from his vehicle and suffered head injuries that left him alive but unable to take care of himself. After 18 years of care, he died from complications of those injuries.

It might be hard to believe that someone would never recover from injuries related to a crash, but it happens all happen all too frequently. The CDC estimates that in 2013 crash deaths and injuries resulted in over $44 billion dollars in medical and work loss costs. But when you compare that to the emotional pain and physical pain endured by victims and the families of victims, that’s a drop in the bucket.

The best way to avoid injuries or death related to drunk driving crashes is to avoid drunk driving. Although there is no control over whether a complete stranger will make the choice to put the keys in the ignition after a night of drinking, you can choose not to put yourself and others at risk by making the choice to drive sober or not at all.

 

 

New York City, Why Aren’t You Installing Your Ignition Interlocks?

new-york-city-ignition-interlockWay back in 2009, New York State passed Leandra’s Law. Named for Leandra Rosado, an 11-year-old girl who killed in a drunk driving crash, the new law required all drivers convicted of driving while intoxicated (DWI) in New York State to install an ignition interlock.

The only problem? It doesn’t sound like anyone is listening. After an audit by the New York City probation department, it was found that less than 5% of convicted drunk drivers have installed the required ignition interlock device in their vehicles.

Over 2,166 drunk drivers being supervised by the city probation department between September 2010 and the end of 2014 were required to install an ignition interlock. Out of all of those drunk drivers, only 111 complied.

Now that the information has been released, the probation department is under fire and they’re scrambling to explain. The department blamed the low installation rate on the fact that drunk drivers are opting out of driving their vehicles and taking transit instead. But the auditors haven’t found a link between DWI offenders and mass transit, and they cited an example where drunk drivers are driving on suspended licenses or borrowing vehicles instead of installing one on their car.

Clearly offenders in New York City need to do some catch up, because the 5% compliance rate for ignition interlock installation is well below the statewide compliance rate of 25.8%.

It’s a fact that ignition interlock devices save lives, and there’s research to back that up. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) estimates that ignition interlock devices will reduce the likelihood that a drunk driver will drive drunk again by up to 67%, so if everyone who is supposed to install them does, that takes a lot of potential drunk drivers off the road.

What will it take to increase the ignition interlock compliance rate of DWI offenders in New York City? DWI penalties are in place for a reason, and these drunk drivers need to be held accountable for their choice to drink and drive.

First Person Convicted For DWI Under New York’s Vince’s law

Vinces-LawNew York is home to Leandra’s Law, a law created to prevent and penalize people who decide to drive while intoxicated (DWI) with children in the vehicle. Incidents of people being charged with Leandra’s Law have been in the news a lot lately, but that’s not the only law in New York dedicated to someone who’s life was cut short by DWI.

Vince’s Law is named for Vince Russo, a man who died after being hit head on by a drunk driver with four previous DWI convictions and one pending DWI conviction. Despite his repeat offenses, he made the decision to get behind the wheel again, and that crash resulted in Russo’s death.

Under Vince’s Law, any drunk driver who commits three or more DWI-related offenses within 15 years will be charged with a Class D felony. That includes a max of 7 years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

The first person to be convicted of Vince’s Law pleaded guilty to a drunk driving charge recently, and because it’s his fifth DWI-related conviction, his plea was for a Class D felony. The driver had been convicted of DWI in 2008, 2010, and convicted for DWAI in 2005. He also had a suspended drivers license.

He’ll be sentenced to prison time and will most likely lose his drivers license for a lifetime. If he’s ever allowed to drive again, he’ll need to install an ignition interlock device in any vehicle he drives for three years.

With New York State laws like Leandra’s Law and Vince’s Law on the books, drivers everywhere can feel more confident that DWI offenders are harshly dealt with. With thousands of people in New York being injured or killed due to DWI, it’s high time for a crackdown. It’s just unfortunate that people had to die for these laws to change, and that these repeat offenders continue to make the choice to get behind the wheel while drunk.

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