NJ Supreme Court: No sentencing break for driving while suspended

TRENTON – The state Supreme Court has barred a sentencing break for some motorists caught driving on suspended licenses.

In a unanimous decision Tuesday, the high court ruled against “intermittent sentencing” — jail terms served at night or on weekends — for repeat offenders who drive while suspended for a DWI.

The ruling arose from a Camden County case, where five motorists received intermittent sentences totaling 180 days each from Superior Court Judge Frederick Schuck in July 2016.

AND: NJ teacher charged with DUI had more twice legal limit, crashed into pizza and wings shop

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(Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The Camden County Prosecutor’s Office challenged the sentences, arguing a state law required the motorists to be jailed for 180 days without interruption.

SEE:NJ DWI arrests by county

The law makes it a fourth-degree crime to drive “for the second time” during a DWI suspension, or during a suspension for “a second or subsequent DWI.”

An appeals court last year upheld the intermittent sentences, although it also said defendants had to spend “continuous 24-hour periods” in jail to satisfy each day of their 180-day terms.

ALSO: Judge raises questions about thousands of DWI cases in NJ

The 2018 ruling noted the five defendants had pleaded guilty based on Schuck’s promise of an intermittent sentence over the prosecution’s objection.

It said the intermittent sentences, which included probationary terms for three motorists, allowed the defendants to keep their jobs and to address family and health concerns.

The Supreme Court’s decision acknowledged the state’s criminal code allows a “sentence of imprisonment to be served ‘at night or on weekends’ unless the criminal code provides otherwise.”

But it noted the motorists were sentenced under a law that “specifically provides” for a minimum term of “not less than 180 days’ without parole eligibility.

The High Court determined the Legislature had chosen the law’s language “to serve as a bar to release, even intermittently, during the period of parole ineligibility.”

The ruling noted laws with similar language require “fixed periods of parole ineligibility” for the most dangerous offenders. It said intermittent sentences, if allowed for motorists, could be extended to people convicted of the most serious crimes, including gun and drug offenses.

“This is a result the Legislature could not have intended,” said the decision, written by Justice Lee Solomon.

A representative of the prosecutor’s office could not be reached for immediate comment.

The motorists’ sentences have been stayed pending the appeal by the prosecutor’s office.

Tuesday’s ruling noted three defendants — Eric Lowers of Sicklerville, Courtney Swiderski of Atco and Stephen Nolan of Gloucester — will now seek to withdraw their guilty pleas.

A fourth defendant, Elizabeth Colon of Pittsgrove, is to be resentenced.

The fifth motorist, Rene Rodriguez of Pennsauken, opted to serve his 180-day sentence while the case was before the Supreme Court. https://www.app.com/story/news/local/courts/2019/05/21/new-jersey-supreme-court-intermittent-sentence-driving-while-suspended-dwi-schuck/3758498002/

Surveillance video shows suspected DUI driver crash into Dairy Queen picnic area, injuring family

LOVELAND, Colo. — Surveillance video shows the moment a driver ran off the road in Loveland and crashed into tables outside a Dairy Queen,injuring a family of four. 

The Loveland Police Department said the “powerful video” emphasizes why the department makes DUI and DUID enforcement a top priority. 

Officers were called out to the Dairy Queen, which is located at 300 E. Eisenhower Boulevard, around noon on Saturday after receiving a report of a vehicle crash. When they arrived, they found that the driver of a white Toyota Corolla had ran the car off the road and into a family picnic area on the side of the fast food restaurant. 

The initial investigation indicated that Michael John Dupuis, 33, of Loveland had been driving eastbound on E. Eisenhower Boulevard. A witness who was driving behind him told police he was driving erratically, and suddenly went off the right side of the roadway. The car then struck the family picnic area, where a family of four was sitting. 

One person was briefly trapped under the car, police said. 

All four members of the family were transported to the hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening, police said. 

Dupuis was taken into custody at the scene and brought to the Larimer County Jail on charges of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and vehicular assault. 

Michael John Dupuis

He has since bonded out. His next court hearing is scheduled for May 30. 

“We will continue to be aggressive in our enforcement in an attempt to reduce incidents like this that have a lasting effect on the community we serve,” Loveland police said. https://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/local-news/surveillance-video-shows-loveland-driver-crash-into-dairy-queen-picnic-area-injuring-family-of-4

Big Name in Racing Charged With Drunk Driving

Al Unser Jr. won Indy 500 twice, but he has long battled alcohol problems

In this 2007 photo, Al Unser Jr. waits to practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis.   (AP Photo/Tom Strattman)

(NEWSER) – A big name in auto racing is making headlines for the wrong reasons. Two-time Indy 500 winner Al Unser Jr. was charged with drunk driving early Monday, reports the Indianapolis Star. Unser, 57, is now retired from racing, but he won the Indy 500 in 1992 and 1994 and competed in it 17 other times. No details about the arrest were immediately available, beyond that Unser was booked into the Hendricks County Jail about 3:20am. Unser has spoken previously about his yearslong battle with alcohol.

In fact, FOX59 notes that he spoke at a school just a few weeks ago, saying that he hoped his story of being a recovering alcoholic would be a lesson to students. Unser has two previous drunk-driving arrests, in 2007 and 2011, and he also was arrested in 2002 after a fight with his girlfriend in which alcohol was a factor.  https://www.newser.com/story/275418/an-indy-500-winner-charged-with-drunk-driving.html

Mass. General surgeon charged with driving drunk, striking pedestrians

BOSTON (AP) — Authorities have charged a prominent Massachusetts doctor with driving drunk, striking three pedestrians in a crosswalk and then leaving the scene.

Dr. Michael Watkins, a vascular surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital, was released on $1,500 bail after pleading not guilty Tuesday to charges including assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon and operating under the influence.

Prosecutors say the 64-year-old Watkins struck the victims just before midnight Friday in Boston’s South End. One victim told police the driver stopped, honked his horn and then accelerated, hitting the pedestrians. They are all expected to survive. https://www.boston.com/news/local-news/2019/05/15/mass-general-surgeon-charged-with-driving-drunk-striking-pedestrians

Watkins’ attorney said in court that his client was not beeping at the pedestrians, but at another car blocking the crosswalk and his blood-alcohol measurement was barely above the legal limit to drive. https://www.boston.com/news/local-news/2019/05/15/mass-general-surgeon-charged-with-driving-drunk-striking-pedestrians

Police captain suspended

NILES – Police Capt. Rob Miketa has been suspended one week after being convicted of a charge of reckless operation in Warren Municipal Court.

Miketa, who origninaly faced a charge of operating a vehicle while impaired that stemmed from a Sept. 21, 2018, traffic stop, will serve the suspension May 27 to June 2, according to Niles police Chief Jay Holland.

Miketa, who has no prior disciplinary record with the department, waived his appeal rights, according to the chief, who found the captain broke departmental rules over code of conduct and obeying laws and ordinances.

He was stopped by a trooper with the Ohio State Highway Patrol just before 2:30 a.m. on North Road for speed. Miketa refused to take a breathalyzer test.

Miketa on Wednesday pleaded no contest to the lesser charge in Warren Municipal Court. https://www.tribtoday.com/news/latest-news/2019/05/thu-11-a-m-niles-police-captain-suspended/