Articles Posted in DWI/Criminal

Police Officer Jason Behar has the impressive distinction of issuing the most DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) in the State of New York. The Port Chester Officer had issued 128 DUI arrests in the last year. Behar says that he is motivated to locate drunk or otherwise intoxicated drivers because of the “numerous accidents, some involving deaths.” The Port Chester Police Chief Richard Conway said, “We’re really proud of him, it was a great individual effort.”

When describing how Behar locates so many drivers under the influence, he states there are several “tip-offs” – driving with no lights on, hugging the line, and swerving back and forth. To avoid a DUI, Behar suggests to basically just “Don’t do it.” Adding that taking a cab, an Uber, or not drinking above the legal limit. Behar also has advice for sober drivers – “…. pull over the side of the road and stay away from erratic drivers. There’s an element of danger just being around a drunk driver.”

Continue reading

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has worked tirelessly to increase awareness of the dangers of drunk driving in an effort to stamp out driving while intoxicated. While surveys show that drunk driving has declined and is at an all-time low, driving while under the influence of marijuana or prescription drugs has increased dramatically.

The NHTSA in its Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers discovered that drunk driving has dropped by 33% in the past 8 years. This is an astonishing drop of 75% in the past 40 years. With that said, drivers are now increasingly driving under the influence of something else – drugs. The survey found that 25% of drivers tested positive for at least one dangerous drug.

While the NHTSA is celebrating its accomplishment regarding drunk driving, it is simultaneously buckling down to explore ideas on how to crack down on driving while under the influence of marijuana or prescription drugs. The NHTSA has been working with researchers, the police, and policy organizations to examine current policies and tweak them to deal with this new issue. The goal is to save lives and reduce car accidents.

The New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department reversed a trial court order that denied summary judgment to two landlords of a restaurant whose employees attacked the plaintiff.

One day, the plaintiff was walking down the sidewalk of New Utrecht Avenue in Brooklyn, New York. There is a restaurant that spans 6010 and 6012 New Utrecht Avenue. AYT Realty owns 6012 New Utrecht, and 6010 Realty owns 6010 New Utrecht. As the plaintiff was outside of the restaurant, for reasons unknown, a group of men beat him. According to the plaintiff, two of the men worked at the restaurant.

The plaintiff filed a claim with the Department of Social Services of the City of New York, and the Department of Social Services covered his medical expenses and then initiated a claim against the 6010 and AYT for reimbursement. The plaintiff also filed a lawsuit against AYT and 6010 to recover damages for personal injuries. AYT and 6010 moved jointly for summary judgment.

The United States Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently released a Traffic Safety Facts – Research Note which summarizes the statistical date on lives saved by the implementation of seat belt laws and minimum drinking age laws. The note estimates that over 13,000 lives were saved by these provisions. The NHTSA is the division of the U.S. Department of Transportation which is responsible for highway and road safety. It is mandated with researching traffic safety measures, providing information, and forming regulations to make the roads safer.

The NHTSA considers lives saved to be one of the basic measurements of how effective safety devices, such as seatbelts, laws and regulations surrounding traffic safety are. They calculate the lives saved by comparing rates of compliance with the various laws and device usage numbers with changes in motor vehicle fatalities. Of course it is important to keep in mind that the numbers used to calculate the lives saved are only estimates, as it is impossible to know exactly what happened in every fatal accident and whether the lack of use or compliance with the relevant safety tool was the cause of the fatality.

The NHTSA estimated that in 2012 the use of seat belts in passenger vehicles saved approximately 12,174 lives up from 11,983 lives in 2013. They also predicted that if 100% of people used seat belts 3,031 lives would have been saved. This implies that there is still work to be done to stop preventable fatalities. As of 2012, forty nine states and the District of Columbia had seat belt laws in place. In thirty two of these states and the District of Columbia had primary laws requiring the use of a seatbelt. A primary seat belt law is one in which a car may be pulled over by the police and the driver fined solely for not wearing a seatbelt. In the remaining nineteen states the seat belt laws are what are referred to as secondary law states. In a secondary law state there must be another reason to pull the vehicle over. Motor vehicles in secondary states cannot be pulled over solely because their occupants or driver is not wearing a seatbelt. Statistics released by the NHTSA have shown that in states with primary laws concerning seatbelts the rate of fatalities involving injuries to non-restrained persons is less than in secondary state laws. This implies that there is a positive value in having stricter seat belt laws and particularly in having stricter enforcement measures for those laws.

According to the United States Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) thirty-one percent of fatal traffic accidents included a driver who had blood alcohol concentration over 0.8 grams per deciliter (g/dL). A blood alcohol concentration over was over 0.8 grams per deciliter is considered to be impaired. This amounted to 10,322 fatal crashed involving impaired drivers in 2012 alone. This includes crashes involving the impaired drivers of motorcycles. This number represents an alarming increase in fatalities of 4.6 percent over 2011 or to put it in even more alarming terms an alcohol-impaired-driving fatality occurred every fifty one minutes in 2012.

The NHTSA was established Highway Safety Act of 1970 as the successor to the National Highway Safety Bureau is a part of the U.S. Department of Transportation and is mandated with reducing deaths, injuries and economic losses resulting from motor vehicle crashes. It does so by conducting research on driver behavior and traffic safety, enforcing safety performance standards for motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment, grants to state and local governments to enable them to conduct effective local highway safety programs, and providing information to consumers and other road users.

beers.jpgAmong the information provided is a comprehensive rundown of traffic safety facts released annually including date on drunk or impaired driving. It can be found online here. It recently released the statistics from 2012 which showed an alarming increase in the rate of impaired driving. It is important however to note that it is impossible to tell if all of the fatalities in question were caused by impaired driving. However, the large number of fatalities where a driver was found to be impaired, thirty-one percent of all fatalities, points to a strong likelihood that impaired driving and fatalities are linked. Of all the people who died in accidents involving an alcohol impaired driver sixty five percent of those who died were drivers with a blood alcohol content of over 0.8 percent. Twenty-seven percent were other people driving or riding in motor vehicles, of which sixteen percent were passengers in the same vehicle as the impaired driver, and the remaining eight percent were people not in a motor vehicle.

Franklin Reyes, a Manhattan teenager awaiting trial for vehicular manslaughter stemming from the 2013 death of a four year old on the Upper West Side, is again in custody after allegedly dragging a police officer 100 feet during a traffic stop. The NY Daily News reports that during the stop, Reyes refused to put his car into park. When the officer attempted to reach inside the vehicle, Reyes sped off. The officer, whose arm was still inside the vehicle, was dragged along the road. The car finally came to a stop, after allegedly almost hitting another pedestrian, when Reyes crashed into a parked car.

When police were eventually able to detain Reyes, he was charged with assault in the second degree (a Class-D felony), unlawful fleeing of a police officer (a Class-E felony), reckless endangerment (a Class-A misdemeanor), reckless driving (a Class-U misdemeanor), and unlicensed driving. These charges, particularly the two felonies and reckless endangerment, could lead to significant jail time for Reyes if convicted. Perhaps more damaging, however, is the fact that the new charges could jeopardize a deal offered by the Supreme Court Justice in Reyes’ original manslaughter case. The New York County Supreme Court Justice, the Hon. Gregory Carro, had reportedly agreed to offer Reyes a four year prison term in the manslaughter case.

The News article did not specify when Reyes is due back in court. It did note that Reyes had already been arrested this summer, subsequent to last year’s manslaughter charges and prior to the current vehicular assault case. Reyes and his father were arrested on suspicion of looting the apartment of a dead woman earlier this year. These new arrests and charges certainly will not sit well with either the district attorney or Reyes’ sentencing judge. The outcome of the trials, as well as the length of any potential prison term that Reyes may have to serve, is unknown at this time.

Elba Ayala, a 43-year-old Shirley resident, was arrested over the Fourth of July weekend for allegedly driving drunk with five children in her car. The children ranged in age from seven months to eight-years-old. Another adult was also a passenger in the vehicle. Ayala was charged with one count of driving while intoxicated. Under Leandra’s Law, she was also charged with one count of driving while intoxicated with a child passenger 15 years old or younger, and five counts of endangering the welfare of a child. If convicted of the top charge, a class E felony, Ayala could be sentenced up to four years in prison.

dwi.jpgAccording to police officials, the Suffolk County Highway Patrol Selective Alcohol Fatality Enforcement Team (SAFE-T), in conjunction with the Suffolk County Parks Police, were working at a sobriety checkpoint off of the William Floyd Parkway near Smith Point County Park on July 6, 2014. As Ayala approached the checkpoint in her 2010 Nissan Altima, she attempted to evade officials and did not stop her vehicle. However, police pulled Ayala over a short time later and determined that she was impaired. Ayala was arrested and transported to the Seventh Precinct. No injuries were reported as a result of the incident.

Over the holiday weekend, 1,077 cars went through the sobriety checkpoint. Including Ayala, five people were arrested for DWI as a result of the heightened enforcement efforts of police over the holiday weekend.

Thomas Stavola, a 54-year-old cardiologist, was arrested and charged with a DWI in June 2014 after he crashed into a vehicle driven by Monica Peterman, a 45-year-old mother of three. Peterman was taken by ambulance to St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead. Stavola was taken to Stony Brook University Hospital where he was treated for minor injuries.

er1.jpgAccording to police officials, Peterman worked as a dialysis technician at St. Catherine of Siena, the same hospital where she was taken after her fatal accident. While heading to work at 4:00 a.m., Peterman was traveling westbound on East Main Street in Smithtown. Stavola, a cardiologist at Stony Brook Community Medical P.C., was traveling north on Route 111 when he hit the driver’s side of Peterman’s vehicle at an intersection. Police arrested Stavola and charged him with DWI.

Peterman’s family members stated that she was very close to receiving her nursing degree. Bryan Greaves, 25, one of Peter’s three sons, remarked, “My mother, she enjoyed helping people. Whether it was on the job or outside of the job, she just helped everyone.” Besides her three sons, Peterman also left behind a husband.

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota called upon Albany lawmakers in June 2014 to toughen the penalties for hit-and-run drivers. Spota stated that many drivers who are drunk or impaired by drugs often flee the scene of accidents because they know that hit-and-run penalties are not as severe as sentences for DWI charges. Spota remarked, “A drunk or drug impaired driver who kills someone may face up to 25 years in prison. But fleeing the accident scene allows the wrongdoer a chance to sober up, and under the current law, any driver guilty of a hit-and-run faces a maximum prison sentence of seven years–even when someone dies or even if the defendant has a prior felony record.”

gavel2.jpgSpota’s remarks came the day before an Eastport man, Peter Torrillo, a married 48-year-old man with four children, received a sentence of 28 months to seven years after leaving the scene of an accident that killed a young mother and seriously injured her passenger. On November 2, 2013, Torrillo was driving on Montauk Highway in Eastport when he hit Erika Strebel, 27, and Edward Barton, 26. Strebel and Burton were pulled over on the side of the road to fill up their jeep which had run out of gas. Strebel, a mother of a 5-year-old boy, was rushed to Peconic Bay Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead a short time later. Burton was airlifted to another hospital for sustaining serious injuries that have left him in a wheelchair.

According to prosecutors, Torrillo, who was convicted of driving while ability impaired in 2012, knowingly fled the scene of the fatal accident. When Torrillo got home, he showered, shaved and headed back out to a local bar. While driving to the bar, Torrillo passed the scene of the accident. The next day, he took his car to a repair shop in Queens in an attempt to cover up the crime. Relying on a witness who saw Torrillo flee the scene, investigators were able to match paint chips left at the accident with paint on Torrillo’s repaired car. Three weeks after the accident, he was arrested and charged with a fatal hit-and-run.

A Nassau County jury convicted Joseph Beer, 19, of four counts of vehicular manslaughter in June 2014 for a 2012 car crash that left four of Beer’s friends dead. Beer, who admitted to smoking marijuana before speeding over 100 mph on the Southern State Parkway, was also found guilty of reckless driving and reckless endangerment, both misdemeanors. Beer now faces five to 15 years in prison when he is sentenced for the fatal accident. Jurors were not able to reach a verdict on the top charge of aggravated vehicular homicide, which carries a sentence of up to 25 years behind bars. In addition, after deliberating for four days, jurors, were also deadlocked on charges for manslaughter, driving without a license, and driving while ability impaired by drugs. Nassau County Judge David Sullivan declared a mistrial on these charges. District Attorney Kathleen Rice stated that she would decide “shortly” on whether or not to retry the case.

In October 2012, Beer, who was only 17 at the time, was driving 110 mph with four friends in his vehicle when he smashed into a tree, causing the car to rip into two pieces. While Beer only suffered from minor injuries, his four friends, ages 17 through 18, were pronounced dead on the scene.

Prosecutors claimed that a combination of “speed and weed” caused the fatal accident. However, an expert witness from the Yale School of Medicine appeared to have cast some doubts as to whether Beer was impaired by marijuana at the time of the crash. The expert testified that the amount of marijuana in Beer’s system wasn’t an adequate way to determine if Beer was impaired at the time of the accident because he was a chronic marijuana user. Beer’s attorney stated that the jury’s deadlocked decision on the top charge of aggravated vehicular homicide showed that the jurors didn’t believe his client was impaired at the time of the crash.

Contact Information