As we head into another weekend…edging ever closer to the holiday season…a reminder about one of the more common criminal justice pitfalls which people tend to experience. Namely, drunk driving.
Many cases around the subject of Operating Under the Influence have hit the press this past week. Today’s daily blog looks at three of them, all three differing in their stage of the prosecution.
First, let’s look to Yarmouth, Massachusetts, the scene of an interesting arrest scene, particularly if you are a dog lover, Tuesday. Axel, the police department K-9 dog, was called upon to help locate an alleged drunk driver at the Foxwoods Condominiums in West Yarmouth .
Bryan C., 41, of Barnstable, (hereinafter, “Defendant 1”) is said to have crashed his 2001 Monte Carlo deep into the woods off Camp Street around 10 p.m. Tuesday. Police say he then fled the scene.
Strikes one and two.
When officers arrived they found the severely damaged car, but no driver. Police were told by a witness that the lone male driver had crawled out of the vehicle, grabbed an item and ran off.
Police brought in K-9 patrol officer Peter McClelland and his partner Axel to track the suspect. They initially found an opened and cold 12 pack of beer – with four remaining cans – on the side of the road about 200 yards from the crash scene. The track continued and led to the front door of a unit at the condominium complex.
Once found, Defendant 1 told officers he was “having a bad night” and admitted to driving the vehicle.
Strike three. Out.
The latest member of the “Hey, I’ll Bet I Can Make This Situation Worse Club” was arrested for (ironically) a third offense of drunk driving, operating to endanger, leaving the scene of a crash, excessive speed and an outstanding arrest warrant.
The next day, Preston, Massachusetts, was the scene of the sentencing of different drunk driving case. It was the sentencing of George L, 52, of Springfield, (hereinafter, “Defendant 2”).
Defendant 2 was being sentenced to the ultimate tragedy of drunk driving cases. Two years ago, he ran over a man on Route 2A, killing him. This week, he begged for forgiveness as he was sentenced to 45 months in prison for second-degree manslaughter with a motor vehicle while intoxicated.
“I still wake up at night about this, and whatever punishment is fit, I’m man enough to take it,” Defendant 2 said, as he described reliving the incident daily.
The deceased’s mother wept and leaned on the shoulder of a victim’s advocate from Survivors of Homicide. His relatives filled one side of a Norwich courtroom while Defendant 2’s parents and girlfriend watched with sad expressions from the other side.
The victim had been 20 years old and had a two-year-old son when he died. He and a cousin had been walking home – though they were headed in the wrong direction – when he was struck and killed on Route 2A east of Route 12.
Defendant 2, whose drivers license had been suspended in Connecticut and had been revoked in Massachusetts, was driving a car with a “crayon-written registration number” according to state police. His car rolled onto its roof after the accident and he was taken to The William W. Backus Hospital, though he told a passerby who stopped to help that he was uninjured. His blood-alcohol content was .19 percent, which is more than twice the state’s legal limit for driving. Lyons had previously been charged with drunken driving in Massachusetts, but his case was dismissed after he completed an alcohol-education program.
Defendant 2 had been incarcerated since his arrest in Jan. 2007. In August, He accepted an offer from prosecutor Thomas M. Griffin to plead guilty in exchange for a sentence of 10 years in prison, suspended after 39 months served and five years probation. Under the agreement, defense attorney Paul F. Chinigo had the right to argue for a shorter prison sentence. Chinigo said Defendant 2, a father of three, wanted to send a letter of apology to the family shortly after his arrest, but that he advised his client against the written apology. He said his client accepted responsibility for his crime “from day one” and tried to show the victim’s family respect by staying in prison after his arrest rather than posting bond.
The judge said he had heard nothing to indicate he should impose anything less than the full 45-month sentence. He ordered Defendant 2, while on probation, to, among other things, undergo substance-abuse evaluation and treatment and forbade him from drinking or using drug and to speak at one Mothers Against Drunk Driving program a year. The judge also ordered him to make $1,000 donations to MADD and Survivors of Homicide, perform 100 hours of community service per year and pay $935 toward the victim’s funeral expenses.
And now we turn the clock ahead in an operating under the influence/accidental homicide picture.
In Quincy, Massachusetts, Joseph B. (hereinafter, “Defendant 3”) had already been released from his incarceration from a drunk driving accident. Now, this week, he was in trouble again.
Defendant 3 served five years for his accident which killed a 23 year old woman.
“I’m just so stunned. I didn’t know what to think, why is he out to start with,” the woman’s father said. His daughter was a passenger in a car Defendant 3 was driving back in January 2002 in Rockland, Massachusetts. Defendant 3 crashed and killed the young woman, burning her beyond recognition.
Defendant 3’s driving record is a laundry list of charges. Since 1984 he’s been arrested nine times for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. His license has been revoked since 1990.
The Quincy police say, Defendant 3 was drunk and crashed again Sunday night, allegedly slamming into a utility pole in a stolen vehicle.
“He’s lucky the telephone pole he hit wasn’t a person. Some other father would be going crazy right now,” said the father of the victim from the last time..
Mothers Against Drunk Driving calls this case extraordinary. “Perhaps they’ll take a look at his record, and take him out of society because it’s clear he’s dangerous,” said David DeIuliis of MADD.
The Registry of Motor Vehicles has said that Defendant 3’s license will now be revoked for life. He’s back behind bars until his next court appearance on this latest crash next month.
There has been a shift over the years in how seriously we treat drunk driving cases. Clearly, gone are the days when people joked about how wasted Bobby was yesterday when he drove home. Now, at least, people get angry at Bobby for being so irresponsible. The Criminal Justice System has likewise had a change of heart.
However, especially because it is in flux, different people get different results in such cases. That is why some people will find themselves behind bars on a second or third offense. For others, it will take longer.
One thing is for sure, though. If you drive drunk, you can end up killing someone or killing yourself. And, yes, although you did not intend to kill anyone, a drunk driving killing is homicide and it will be prosecuted as such.
Defendant 1 seemed to think he had a good defense to float by the officers when attempting to explain his accident, leaving the scene and being intoxicated. He was wrong; there is not “Bad Day” defense that is recognized in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
As you can see, these cases are increasing in their public exposure. Organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving have done a great deal to bring that change about. So, it is much more likely these days that there will be public scrutiny in these cases, which means that the prosecutors and judges will find even more reason to be “tough on crime”.
So, the message is simple today. To tell you that driving while intoxicated is bad idea is to tell you the obvious. However, if you have been, or feel you may be, charged of driving while intoxicated, take it seriously. You are not simply talking about a charge of littering here. There are also an increasing number of statutes which govern the handling of these matters. It is vital to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to try to minimize, or even potentially avoid, damage to your life which will last a lifetime.
Again, do not flee, do not fight, do not come up with clever self-created defenses. Comply and get in touch with experienced counsel to help you through what is an increasingly complex area of law.
Have a good and law abiding weekend!
Samuel Goldberg is the senior criminal defense attorney at the firm of Altman & Altman, P.C. A former prosecutor in New York, he has worked as a Boston, Massachusetts defense attorney for over 18 years. He frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network
The full articles of this story can be found at http://www.theday.com/re.aspx?re=0446e332-1bfe-478b-b3f5-e2e4e4c393aa , http://www.wickedlocal.com/yarmouth/news/x541348722/YPD-K-9-helps-nab-drunk-driver and http://wbztv.com/local/drunk.driving.accident.2.864084.html