Articles Posted in DWI/Criminal

A recent study suggests that marijuana use may cause fatal car accidents. The study, released by JAMA Internal Medicine, found there were more fatalities and car accidents on April 20, a “holiday” of sorts for cannabis enthusiasts, compared to the same period of time a week beforehand and a week afterward. This study comes on the heels of an increasing push by legislators and public policy experts to determine the effects of marijuana on driving habits, and consequently, to establish an objective standard for measuring intoxication by the drug.

To measure the effect of marijuana on car accidents, the researchers gathered data on car accidents on April 13, April 20, and April 27. April 20 is widely “celebrated” by marijuana users, and 4:20 PM on that day is traditionally regarded as a time to imbibe on the once-illicit drug. Consequently, researchers looked at the number of car accidents between 4:20 PM and midnight on April 20 and compared the results to the statistics during the same time period a week earlier and a week later.  The researchers compared the data over a 25-year period and in several different locations throughout the country. The results showed a 12 percent overall increase in fatal accidents between 4:20 PM and midnight on April 20. Further, the increase in car accidents was particularly notable in drivers under the age of 20. New York, along with Texas and Georgia, saw the sharpest increase in fatal car accidents on April 20.

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Two New York City hospitals are being sued for the damages caused by the release of allegedly dangerous patients from their psychiatric wards. In the past month, two lawsuits have been filed against New York City hospitals alleging that the hospitals behaved in a negligent or careless manner when they released dangerous patients into the tri-state area. These patients then went on to physically attack the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

subway-push-victim-300x200The first case involves Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan, where a Queens man is suing the hospital after one of its patients pushed her husband in front of a subway car last year. Tragically, the man’s wife died as a result of the fall. According to the lawsuit, Bellevue never should have released the patient, Melanie Liverpool-Turner. Liverpool-Turner, a diagnosed schizophrenic, was allegedly ranting about killing transit riders while on an involuntary psychiatric hold at the hospital, according to filings with a Manhattan Supreme Court. Continue reading

distracted-drivingThe number of car accidents in America has steadily increased since 2014, reversing a previous downward trend on America’s roadways. Experts believe that an increase in distracted driving is largely to blame for the increase in car accidents – pointing to the rise of cell phones, in particular.

Distracted driving is a catch-all term for whenever a driver is not focused on the roadways. While this obviously includes activities such as texting and driving or putting on makeup while commuting to work, distracted driving encompasses many more activities. A driver may be distracted if they are changing the radio station, inputting an address into their navigation system, or having an emotional conversation that distracts the driver from concentrating on the road. Experts believe that, since there is no test to measure what a driver was concentrating on at the time of an accident, the number of accidents caused by distracted drivers is woefully under reported.   Continue reading

In 2012, a Long Island man, Daniel Sajewski, rammed his father’s red Mercedes-Benz through a Huntington house, narrowly missing the two elderly sisters that lived in the residence. Sajewski was, perhaps predictably, intoxicated – blowing an off-the-chart 0.30 on a breathalyzer, far exceeding New York’s 0.08 limit. In addition to losing their belongings (including a wedding band that could not be located in the rubble), the accident left the two 90-year-old sisters homeless for several months. In 2013, the judge sentenced Sajewski to one-and-a-half years to three years in prison.

carcrash-300x181More recently, State Farm, who insured the house that was destroyed, has decided to pursue legal action against Sajewski’s father, the owner of the vehicle. State Farm is seeking $180,000 from the father to reimburse it for the money spent on repairing the home. State Farm is able to pursue this claim because, under New York law, the owner of a vehicle is liable for the damages caused by its drivers – so long as the driver has the owner’s permission to operate the vehicle.  According to the statute, the permission can be expressly stated or implied.

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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.”

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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.

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