Articles Posted in DWI In The News

The New York City Police Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau is currently investigating a police officer who was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated while operating his police cruiser late last month. 31-year-old Christopher Morris was arrested after he drove his police cruiser into a light pole while on duty. Although no one was injured, the pole struck a parked van following the early morning crash.

His fellow officers purportedly knew Morris had consumed alcohol prior to the accident. Before his shift, Morris attended a fundraiser with several other officers on behalf on another officer killed in the line of duty in December 2011. At the event, Morris’ co-workers allegedly realized he was intoxicated and requested that he be placed on desk duty during his shift that evening in order to keep him off of the streets in his patrol car. Instead, Morris was allowed to enter his vehicle and crashed shortly thereafter.

After the collision, the five year police veteran refused a breathalyzer test. Morris was taken into custody for driving while intoxicated after a police supervisor reportedly smelled alcohol on his breath. He was also suspended from the police force for 30 days.

A driving while intoxicated (DWI) charge can have serious implications. Most people charged with driving while intoxicated are concerned with potentially losing their driving privileges and how the charge might affect their job or family members. The potential penalties for DWI, aggravated DWI, or DWAID (driving while ability impaired by drugs) include fines, jail time, mandatory alcohol evaluation, screening and or treatment, the requirement to install and maintain an ignition interlock device (IID) in any vehicles the person owns or operates for 1 year, and the suspension or revocation of the accused individual’s driving license. The penalties for those with a commercial driver’s license are even more severe and can certainly cause loss of employment or job opportunities.

Since 2006, a New York driver with a blood alcohol content greater than .18 will be charged with aggravated driving while intoxicated. If convicted on an aggravated DWI charge, a driver will automatically lose his or her driving license for one year. If you were accused of driving while intoxicated or while ability impaired by drugs, you need the services of an experienced, knowledgeable attorney as soon as possible.

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On March 23, 2012, after approximately five hours of deliberations and testimony from competing experts and the defendant himself, a Palm Beach County jury comprised of 5 men and 1 woman convicted multimillionaire Polo Club founder John Goodman, 48, of DUI Manslaughter and vehicular homicide in the February 12, 2010 fatal crash which claimed the life of 23 year old engineering graduate Scott Wilson. The accident occurred when Goodman’s Bentley went through a stop sign and broad sided Wilson’s vehicle at approximately 63 miles per hour. Wilson’s vehicle flipped over and was apparently pushed into a canal by Goodman’s car. The prosecution offered evidence that Goodman’s BAC (blood alcohol concentration) at the time of the crash was .177%, more than double the legal limit of 0.08%.

Further, the prosecution showed that after the accident, Goodman left the scene without assisting Mr. Wilson or calling 911, and through testimony from the medical examiner, that Mr. Wilson died not from his injuries from the accident, (which were described as “superficial”), but rather from drowning. As a result, Goodman was also convicted of failing to provide aid to Wilson, which will lead to a longer jail sentence.

Mr. Goodman retained noted defense attorney Roy Black (famous for his successful representation of JFK nephew William Kennedy Smith in 1991 on rape charges), who lodged a two part defense: First, Black argued that Goodman was not drunk at the time of the accident; rather, he began drinking after the accident. Black contended that after the shock of the accident, Mr. Goodman walked to a local bar, where he drank a half bottle of liquor. Secondly, Black contended that Goodman’s Bentley had a throttle malfunction, causing him to be unable to stop his vehicle as he approached the stop sign. As to the first contention, the defense introduced the testimony of friends of Mr. Goodman, who specifically denied seeing him drink any alcohol that evening. As to the vehicle malfunction argument, there were competing experts from the prosecution and the defense, arguing whether vehicle codes in the vehicle were set prior to the crash, (proving a throttle malfunction), or after the crash, as the prosecution’s expert testified.

The defense also argued that Goodman suffered a concussion in the accident which prevented him from remembering what had occurred or offering any assistance to Mr. Wilson. In support of this argument, they took the risky step of putting Mr. Goodman on the stand, who was unable to recall almost anything of the evening’s events other than he was not intoxicated at the time of the deadly crash. Without question, Goodman’s testimony did not help his cause. One juror, Dennis DeMartin, called putting Goodman on the stand a “big mistake” after he stumbled through three hours of cross examination and acknowledged having 3 or 4 drinks prior to the accident in contradiction of his defense’ main contention that he had nothing to drink before the accident. The defense was also hurt significantly by testimony of Goodman’s girlfriend, who denied that he complained of any head injury, and the emergency room nurse, who testified that Goodman complained only of wrist pain.

Mr. Goodman faces 30 years in prison on the manslaughter and vehicular homicide charges when he is sentenced on April 30th. Mr. Black has vowed to appeal, citing “multiple errors…committed during and before the trial that, in effect, denied our client’s ability to get a fair trial.” In an unusual decision undoubtedly made as a result of Goodman’s considerable wealth and potential as a flight risk, Judge Jeffrey Colbath denied Goodman’s application for bail while Goodman awaits sentencing.

In all likelihood, Goodman will end up getting a sentence of approximately 12-15 years when he is sentenced on April 30th.

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There is a DWI trial going on in West Palm Beach now that has captured widespread attention around the U.S. The case involves 48 year old Houston multimillionaire John Goodman, who is charged in the February 12, 2010 death of 23 year old Scott Wilson, who was killed when Goodman’s $200,000 Bentley went through a stop sign and struck Wilson’s vehicle. The accident caused Wilson’s Hyundai to flip over and into a canal, where Wilson drowned. The evidence presented in Court allegedly shows that Goodman’s BAC (blood alcohol concentration) was more than twice the legal limit at the time of the accident.

According to the local medical examiner, Wilson would not have died from his physical injuries in the accident. Accident reconstruction experts claim that the Bentley was traveling at 63 miles per hour at the time of the crash.

Goodman is charged with DUI manslaughter, vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of a serious personal injury accident, and could face up to thirty years in prison if convicted of the charges. The prosecution contends that Goodman’s BAC was approximately 0.18%, more than twice Florida’s legal limit of 0.08%. Ellen Roberts, the prosecutor, informed the jury that Goodman consumed between 16 and 18 drinks before entering his vehicle. They presented evidence from Palm Beach County Sheriff Richard Safford, who testified that Goodman smelled as if alcohol was “almost coming directly from his pores…” and that he had to roll down his windows to let the smell clear out of his vehicle after transporting Goodman to the precinct.

The defense has offered two arguments for Goodman’s innocence. First, they contend that Goodman was not intoxicated prior to the accident, but rather, began drinking after the accident to deal with the pain of his injuries, which include a shattered wrist, broken sternum and an unspecified head injury. The second contention the defense has made is that a malfunction in the Bentley caused the vehicle to accelerate rather than stop when Goodman approached the stop sign.

In disputing the first contention, the prosecution has offered the testimony of two witnesses who observed Goodman drinking at two establishments before the accident. As for the second argument, Ms. Roberts presented the testimony of Wellington Regional Medical Center nurse Cecilia Betts, who testified that Goodman never made any complaints of dizziness, headache, or any other signs of a head injury at the hospital, only wrist pain. Further, during her testimony, Goodman’s girlfriend Heather Laruso Hutchins did not recall Goodman complaining about pain other than of his wrist.

The defense also claims that a purported head injury suffered by Goodman caused him to forget that he had struck another vehicle and that the occupant of that vehicle would need assistance, or at least a call to 911. Goodman apparently left the scene without making an effort to assist in a rescue of Mr. Wilson after the accident. Goodman’s attorney claims that Goodman suffered a concussion, which was responsible for his conduct. However, the prosecution presented evidence that Wilson was able to call his girlfriend to notify her of the accident, and also was physically and mentally capable of walking to another bar and ordering additional drinks.

Two other facts about this case bear mention. First, Goodman’s attorneys have apparently settled a civil wrongful death action with Wilson’s parents for an undisclosed sum. Secondly, in a bizarre twist, Goodman has adopted his 42 year old girlfriend, ostensibly in an effort to protect his substantial assets.

To watch a computer recreation of the Goodman DWI crash, go to this link from the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

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On September 9, 2011, 51 year old Bernard Molloy, an aide with the Westchester County Board of Legislators, was arrested by the New York State Police on Route 202 in Cortlandt Manor and charged with DWI. Apparently, a breathalyzer test conducted at the precinct subsequently revealed a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.17%. The legal limit for DWI in New York is 0.08%, and an aggravated DWI can be charged if a driver has a BAC of 0.18% or above. The aggravated DWI charge was first instituted in 2004 under Section 1192 (2a) (a) of the Vehicle & Traffic Law.

Mr. Molloy was arraigned in Cortlandt Town Court on September 16, 2011 on the 9/9/11 DWI charges, and pled not guilty. The problem is that records show that a year earlier, in May of 2010 to be exact, he pled guilty to another DWI charge following a minor accident on the Bear Mountain Parkway in Cortlandt, just west of Route 202. On that initial charge, Molloy pled guilty to a misdemeanor DWI and was sentenced to a one year conditional discharge, a fine and discharge of $900.00 in total, and a six month license suspension.

The issue for Mr. Molloy now is that he has been charged with a second DWI within 10 years, and under the Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 1192, he must be charged with a felony DWI. Although Molloy has a further Court date on October 21, 2011 in the Cortlandt Town Court, local Courts such as Cortlandt do not have jurisdiction of felonies, so the case will be transferred to the Westchester County Court.

Further, Mr. Molloy is now facing the stark reality of the following as a result of an E felony DWI charge under Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 1192: A probable sentence to five years probation rather than a conditional discharge, in which the Probation Department will have involvement in the decision when he can drive again; the requirement to install and maintain at his own expense an ignition interlock device (IID) in his vehicle for at least one year, by which the vehicle will not start unless the driver has alcohol free breath; fines of at least $1,000 with a maximum of $5,000.00; the requirement to attend alcohol counseling though the Countywide program known as TASC (Treatment Alternatives For Safer Communities); the obligation to pay $750.00 in fines to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (NYSDMV), known as the “Driver Responsibility Assessment” (payable in three annual installments of $250.00 or all at once at the driver’s option); and attendance at one session of the MADD Victim’s Impact Panel. Molloy will also not be eligible to attend the New York State Drinking Driver Program, which permits drivers to obtain a conditional license to drive to and from work, because the program can only be attended once every five years, and Mr. Molloy would have been required to take this program in 2010 following his previous conviction. Thus, he is now not eligible for a conditional license.

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In an ironic twist, Darryl Towns, former Brooklyn assemblyman and one of the proponents of Leandra’s Law, which strengthened the penalties for DWI cases in New York, has been charged with drunk driving and will likely be sentenced to some of the provisions he voted for in 2009 when Leandra’s Law went into effect. On July 3, 2011 at approximately 1:40 AM, Mr. Towns, New York State’s Housing Commissioner, struck a barrier along an exit ramp while merging onto the Hutchinson River Parkway in Mount Vernon. He apparently failed the three standard Field Sobriety Tests, including the walk and turn and one leg stand, and a chemical test was reported to reveal a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.16%, which is double the legal limit of 0.08% for a DWI charge.

Generally speaking, and with variations for men and women (men have more muscle and women more body fat), body size, food consumed, and type of liquor ingested, a BAC of 0.16%, if accurate, is likely due to the consumption of between approximately 8 and 10 drinks. The Westchester County District Attorney’s Office has a general policy of not permitting a reduced plea in a DWI case in which the driver has a BAC of 0.16% (the cut off is usually no more than 0.15%) down to a DWAI, (Driving While Ability Impaired), which is a traffic infraction, not a crime. A DWI can be a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances and whether this was Mr. Towns’ first offense.

Mr. Towns pled not guilty to the charges at his arraignment before Judge Helen Blackwood in the Mount Vernon City Court. He is expected to take a plea to DWI on August 18, 2011. If Mr. Towns pleads guilty to the DWI charge, he will be sentenced to a fine of $500.00 with a New York State surcharge of $400.00, be required to attend a Victim’s Impact Panel sponsored by MADD, (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), be ordered to undergo alcohol screening and evaluation through a County sponsored program (and treatment if needed), have to install and maintain at his expense an Ignition Interlock Device in any cars he owns or operates for 1 year, and attend the DMV sponsored Drinking Driver Program, which is a 7 week class that is approximately 16 classroom hours. He will also be fined $750.00 by the DMV in what is known as a “Driver’s Responsibility Assessment.”

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On June 23, 2011, Marta Amaro-Morales, 44, became the first driver in Westchester County to be convicted of a felony DWI under Leandra’ s Law, which first came into law in December of 2009. Pursuant to the provisions of Leandra’s Law, drivers charged with DWI with children under the age of 16 in the vehicle are charged with a felony, which cannot be pled down to a lower misdemeanor charge.

Ms. Amaro Morales was arrested on May 30, 2010 when she was driving on the Bear Mountain Parkway in Peekskill and state police claimed that she crossed a double yellow line on one side and the fog line on the other. In addition to the numerous DWI charges, she was also charged with unsafe lane change among other traffic infractions. Her children aged 7 and 11 were in the car with her, as was her 4 year old granddaughter, who was apparently not in a car seat. It was claimed that Amaro-Morales failed the three standardized field sobriety tests, which include the “Walk and Turn”, One Leg Stand” and what is known as the “Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus” test, which is an involuntary horizontal movement of the eyes that is alleged to indicate intoxication.

Amaro-Morales was found guilty of three felony counts of aggravated driving while intoxicated, two misdemeanor counts of DWI, and numerous traffic violations. Judge Barry Warhit issued the verdict after a four day bench (no jury) trial. She faces up to 4 years in prison on the felony charges.

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George Kiaha, a 25 year old Garrison resident, was sentenced this week to the maximum 2 1/3 to 7 year jail sentence for the September 4, 2009 fatal DWI that resulted in the death of 55 year old Ralph Wood and injured five members of his family. The D.A.’s office claimed that Mr. Kiaha had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.11 when the vehicle he was operating in Cortlandt Manor crossed a double yellow line and struck head-on the car in which Mr. Wood was a passenger. All the occupants of both vehicles were hospitalized. Mr. Wood apparently suffered a ruptured spleen in the crash, went into cardiac arrest and died.

Mr. Kiaha was convicted by a Westchester County jury of all counts against him, including vehicular assault (the top count), criminally negligent homicide, reckless driving and five misdemeanor counts of assault for each of the occupants of the other vehicle in the crash. He was sentenced by Judge Barbara Zambelli to the severest sentence possible for vehicular manslaughter. Mr. Kiaha’s defense attorney argued to the jury that poor police work and mishandled evidence created doubt as to the blood alcohol findings taken at the hospital, but the jury did not accept that contention.

The attorney had asked the Court to sentence Mr. Kiaha to what is known as shock probation, which involves some jail time and then five years probation, but Judge Zambelli rejected that request. It is not yet clear if Mr. Kiaha will appeal his conviction. Certainly, the severity of Mr. Kiaha’s sentence was affected in part by the obvious tragic circumstances of the accident, and in addition, the fatal accident on the Taconic in 2009 and the effects of Leandra’s Law, which became fully effective this past August.

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On January 28, 2010, Christin Ewing, a 29 year old wrestling coach with Mahopac High School, was arraigned on felony leaving the scene of a personal injury accident charges in the White Plains City Court. The case arises out of an incident on December 19, 2010 at approximately 4:00 AM when 23 year old Raul Rios, (coincidentally also a former wrestling coach with White Plains High School) was struck by a black Mercedes Benz as he was crossing Post Road near Kennedy Fired Chicken. The Mercedes kept going after the accident, which was supposedly captured on video surveillance cameras along Post Road near its intersection with Mamaroneck Avenue.

The videos were enhanced to enable police to identify the license plate number, and police also checked numerous dealers and body shops to determine if any late model black Mercedes with front end damage were brought in for repair over the last 6 weeks.

Rios suffered severe head trauma and was hospitalized for several weeks at Westchester Medical Center before being discharged to begin physical therapy. Apparently, moments after the accident, two other people suffered minor injuries when they were struck by another vehicle while offering assistance to Mr. Rios. The driver of that vehicle, David Bautista of White Plains, also did not stop, and was apprehended near the accident, where he was arrested for DWI and misdemeanor leaving the scene of an accident.

Judge Eric Press set bail at $20,000 cash or $50,000 bond. If Ewing were to be convicted on the felony leaving the scene of a personal injury accident under section 600 (2c) of the New York State Vehicle & Traffic Law, he could be sentenced to fines of not less than $1,000 nor more than $5,000, as well as possible jail time of up to 4 years on a class E felony.

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Andrew Gallo, the 24 year old construction worker convicted of felony DWI in the April 9, 2009 car accident which killed Los Angeles Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart, 20 year old Courtney Stewart and 25 year old Henry Pearson, was sentenced to 51 years to life in prison on December 22, 2010. The tragic accident occurred when the defendant ran through a red light at 65 miles per hour and t-boned the car in which Adenhart, Stewart and Pearson were passengers. Another occupant, Jon Wilhite, suffered severe injuries including the separation of his spine from his skull, but amazingly survived the accident.

Gallo was previously on probation for felony DWI when the April 9, 2009 accident occurred. Gallo’s BAC (blood alcohol concentration) was allegedly almost three times the legal limit. Judge Richard F. Toohey of the Santa Ana Court sentenced Gallo to 15 years for each of the three passengers killed in the accident, and to 6 years for the injuries suffered by Mr. Wilhite.

Nick Adenhart was a promising rookie pitcher for the Angels who had pitched for the team earlier in the evening of the accident and was out with friends to celebrate at the time of the accident.

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On November 18, 2009, a Westchester County jury found 25 year old George Kiaha guilty of vehicular manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide for the September 4, 2009 death of Cortlandt resident Ralph Wood. It was alleged that on that date, Mr. Kiaha was driving while intoxicated with a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of 0.11 when his car crossed a double yellow line and struck the car Mr. Wood was a passenger in. The legal limit for intoxication is 0.08 percent. Wood’s vehicle was also occupied by his daughter, her fiance, and three grandchildren, who were all injured.

Mr. Kiaha was also convicted of 5 counts of reckless driving and DWI for each of the other occupants of the vehicle. Those counts are misdemeanors. The prosecution introduced evidence of bottles of Bud Light in Kiaha’s vehicle as well as the testimony of emergency personnel who claimed that they smelled alcohol on Mr. Kiaha’s breath. The defense countered with the argument that there was a “chain of custody” issue with Mr. Kiaha’s blood (an argument that was successfully utilized in the O.J. Simpson murder trial back in 1995) and that the police were never able to determine the speed of Kiaha’s vehicle. However, it appears that the jury was not persuaded by these arguments; they returned a guilty verdict in three hours.

The 2nd degree vehicular manslaughter charge is a felony under section 125.12 of the New York State Penal Law and carries a maximum sentence of 7 years in jail. The criminally negligent homicide charge is a class E felony under section 125.10 of the Penal Law and has a maximum jail term of 4 years. Mr. Kiaha will be sentenced by Westchester Court Judge Barbara Zambelli on February 22, 2011.

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