Chief: Discipline in police drunken-driving case may happen soon

Daniel Coppola Photo: Schenectady Police Department

SCHENECTADY — Police Chief Eric Clifford said the city patrolman facing drunken driving charges stemming from Sunday’s motor vehicle crash may face disciplinary charges early next week.

But Clifford on Friday said even when the internal probe wraps up he may hold off on a decision pending how a judge rules on whether to suspend Officer Daniel Coppola driver’s license, which he needs to do his job.

“It’s possible he could  go on (disciplinary) charges Monday, and if we make a decision by Monday, we may actually move faster than these court proceedings, which is really the new way of doing things,” the chief said, referring to to the state law that now determines police discipline with Public Safety Commissioner Michael Eidens in charge. “This situation is not going to be taken lightly and I will hold him accountable.”

At the same time, Clifford said it speaks to integrity of Coppola, 23, that he called in the wreck to police after being hit by a motorist, who police say was driving without a license at the time of the crash at 4:14 a.m. Sunday at Broadway and Liberty Street in Schenectady. It’s unclear if that driver has been charged.

“He does not have a history of discipline,” said Clifford of Coppola, noting that will be among the many factors he will weigh when deciding on discipline.

Court documents indicate Coppola’s eyes were glassy, his speech was deliberate, and he smelled of alcohol. He failed  standardized field sobriety tests to stand on one leg and the horizontal gaze nystagmus but passed the walk and turn test.

Copolla, who had a blood alcohol content of 0.12 percent, pleaded not guilty Thursday in City Court to two counts of driving while intoxicated. He is due back in court June 7.

In New York, the legal threshold to be charged with driving while intoxicated, a misdemeanor, is 0.08 percent.

The court filings indicate that Coppola was read his Miranda rights at around 5:20 a.m. and was charged with DWI. Roughly about 20 minutes later at 5:42 a.m., he was placed under observation, as the law requires. The subsequent breath test, where his blood alcohol content came in at 0.12 percent, was given at 6:21 a.m.

Asked about the police handling of the matter, Clifford said everything was done by the book.

“The two-hour time frame doesn’t stand out as a problem and is not outside the boundary of reasonableness,” he said.

Eric Sills, an Albany-based attorney, said Friday that “with certain exceptions, the ‘two-hour rule’ provides that the police must administer a chemical ( blood or breath) test to a DWI suspect within two hours of the time of the person’s arrest.

He also  stressed that that it is common for the defendant to leave the arraignment with their driver’s license.

“Although a driver’s license is technically supposed to be suspended pending prosecution at arraignment, the defendant has the right to a pre-suspension hearing, as well as the right to an adjournment to prepare for the hearing,” Sills said.

Clifford said he didn’t know but he suspects that Lt. Wesley McGhee, the supervisor on duty the night of the incident, didn’t respond but had to be called to the scene, which might also have prevented Coppola from getting the Breathlyzer test earlier.

“I don’t know if it caused a delay but it could have,” said Clifford.

As part of Thursday’s proceeding, City Court Judge Teneka Frost ruled she couldn’t suspend Coppola’s license, which normally happens when somebody is arraigned on a DWI charge, because a certified copy of the breath test was not contained in the court files.

Clifford said Friday that the department provided a copy of the breath test signed by the officer, “which is typically acceptable” and that an police officer would have had to drive to Albany to get the certified state copy.

“We provided everything that we normally provide, which has historically been accepted by the judge, but (the judge) didn’t feel it was appropriate,” said Clifford.

Court papers indicate that Coppola, 23, told the responding officer that he was driving home from Union Inn after having two beers.

Attorney Andrew Safranko, who is representing Coppola, said his client, is remorseful and has  cooperated fully with authorities during the probe.

“He apologizes to the chief and the members of the department  for casting a negative light on the department,” said Safranko.  “He’s a young man, loves loves being a police officer, and apologizes for getting in this situation at all.”

For now, Coppola, who is 23 with two years on the force, remains on desk duty, watching prisoners and taking police reports, Clifford said.

Coppola is the stepson of Schenectady County Sheriff Dominic Dagostino.

Over the years, several police officers in Schenectady and Albany have run afoul of the law after drinking and get behind the wheel of a car, in some  cases striking parked cars and other stationary objects.

https://www.timesunion.com/7dayarchive/article/Chief-Discipline-in-Schenectady-police-drunken-12926487.php

Man accused of throwing drugs out of window during police pursuit

COLONIAL HEIGHTS, Va. — A Petersburg man has been arrested after police say he failed to stop during a traffic stop and threw drugs out of his car window during the subsequent police pursuit.

The incident happened Tuesday beginning with an attempted traffic stop in Colonial Heights and a police pursuit that traveled through Chesterfield, Dinwiddie and Petersburg.

A Colonial Heights police officer initiated a traffic stop for an equipment violation as well as suspected drunk driving on the driver of a 1998 Chevrolet pick-up truck in the area of Boulevard and Lakeview.

The driver, later identified as 27-year-old Timothy Charles-Nicholas Gray, failed to stop for the officer and a vehicle pursuit ensued, according to police.

Timothy Charles-Nicholas Gray

Police say Gray, who was the lone occupant of the vehicle, led officers into Chesterfield County, where Chesterfield Police joined the pursuit.

While traveling through the Ettrick area, police say Gray threw several bags of suspected narcotics out of the window.

The pursuit also traveled through Dinwiddie County and then into the City of Petersburg, where the pursuit ended after the suspect crashed into another vehicle in the 1900 Block of West Washington Street.

Gray and two occupants from the victim vehicle were transported to Southside Regional Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries.

Charges pending for Gray include, Felony eluding, driving on a suspended license, defective equipment, Driving under the influence, possession of marijuana and possession of cocaine.

Police say he may also be charged with crimes in Chesterfield and Petersburg related to the incident.

Gray with be transported to Riverside Regional Jail once released from the hospital.

http://wtvr.com/2018/05/15/man-accused-of-throwing-drugs-out-of-window-during-police-pursuit/

Grandfather drives drunk with toddler in backseat

Wy Police SUVs 2

A 52-year-old man is accused of endangering the life of his 20-month-old granddaughter by driving “super drunk” with the toddler in the back seat of his car.

Shortly after 8 p.m. May 3, Wyandotte police spotted the man in the area of Fort Street and Goddard, as he failed to signal a right turn and then was paced traveling at speeds in excess of 35 mph in a marked 25 mph zone.

Police stopped the driver near the Burger King restaurant on Fort Street in Lincoln Park.

The officer noted that the man’s eyes were bloodshot and glossy, and the odor of intoxicants emitted from his breath.

A toddler was in a car seat, in the rear of the vehicle behind the front passenger seat. The man said the child was his 20-month-old granddaughter.

In response to the officer’s question, the man said “I haven’t drank today.”

According to information provided by the Law Enforcement Information Network and Michigan Secretary of State, the man had one prior conviction for operating while intoxicated and had a few active warrants.

The officer told the man to get out of the car. He again asked him if he had consumed any alcoholic beverages.

“I had one earlier, but it was about 2 o’clock when I stopped drinking,” the man said. However, he later changed his story to say he had two drinks, then a few minutes later admitted to having three drinks.

Two additional officers arrived at the scene to offer their assistance.

In one of the field sobriety tests, police asked the man to recite the alphabet, starting with the letter “C” and ending at “M.” He started at “A” and ended at “Z,” then sang “Now I know my A, Z, M’s.”

After failing additional field sobriety tests, a preliminary breath test indicated his blood-alcohol content was 0.26.

http://www.thenewsherald.com/news/police_fire/grandfather-allegedly-drives-super-drunk-in-wyandotte-with-toddler-in/article_86c01b30-8a4d-5be8-b32b-00894d5bfd52.html

Woman asked deputy for directions. She forgot about the drugs in her car.

The Loudon County Sheriff's Office (W. Va.) found around six pounds of marijuana and 200 grams of THC oil in a woman's car.

What You Need To Know About Per Se DUI Laws

Did you ever wonder why it’s important for law enforcement to establish that a driver they pulled over on suspicion of DUI has a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above .08 percent? Aside from being the legal limit in practically all states, a BAC of .08 percent is all authorities would need to charge that driver with a DUI, thanks to “per se” laws. Here are some things you need to know about per se laws.
No further evidence needed with a per se DUI charge
The Latin phrase “per se” means “by itself,” which means that by itself, a 0.08 BAC is enough to prove that you are guilty of a DUI. No further evidence would be required to prove that you were intoxicated while behind the wheel.
All states have per se DUI laws
Per se laws are now in effect in every state in the U.S. as well as the District of Columbia. With their per se laws, these states no longer have to prove impairment or present that the driver failed a field sobriety test to charge him or her with a DUI.
Why were per se laws created?
Many individuals stopped on suspicion of drunk driving often feel and claim to be sober. With per se laws in place, drivers can claim to be as sober as can be, and none of that would matter if their BAC is at or over .08 percent. In a way, per se laws were created and implemented to make it easier for the state to convict people of a DUI.
Per se laws do not address drugged driving
The .08 percent BAC limit is confined to alcohol, so the per se laws, in general, don’t cover drugged DUI cases per se. Some states, however, have taken steps to ensure that their per se laws address drugged driving. Nevada, Ohio, and Virginia, for example, have established specific limits for the presence of drugs in a driver’s system. Then there’s the zero tolerance policy espoused by Arizona, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, and Wisconsin, where detectable levels of certain drugs in your body can get you charged and possibly convicted of drugged driving.
You can challenge a per se DUI charge
A .08 BAC or higher does not necessarily mean an automatic DUI conviction. If you find yourself facing per se DUI charges, take comfort in the fact that you can challenge your test result’s validity. You can also question the procedures used to establish your BAC or even the machines used to process the samples collected from you.
Get the services of an experienced DUI attorney, and you can be sure he or she knows many other ways to defend your DUI case in court.

Bio:
Michelle White currently works as the Marketing & Communications specialist at Law Offices of Brian Sloan. Her experiences with DUI cases in the past have inspired her to spread awareness about DUI laws in the United States.

DUI Accidents and the Legal Matters Involved

A DUI arrest brings with it several legal consequences, and those consequences become more serious when an accident is involved.
In DUI accidents, it isn’t just the drunk driver who has to attend to legal matters. The victims, whether another driver, a pedestrian, a passenger in the drunk driver’s car, or the family of those who died or were seriously injured in the said accident, also need to understand their rights under the law so they can take appropriate legal action. Here are some of the legal matters involved in DUI accidents that all parties need to understand.
The civil liability of drunk drivers
In any DUI accident, it is imperative for authorities to establish that the driver who caused the crash was indeed drunk when it happened.
Breathalyzers, field sobriety tests and blood tests should help the police determine the blood alcohol content (BAC) levels of the DUI offender. Once the tests confirm that the driver was indeed drunk, he or she will be exposed to civil liability suits from the victims of the accident.
As a respondent in a civil case, the at-fault driver may also be compelled by the court to compensate the victims who have filed property damage and personal injury claims.
Criminal liability
A DUI is already a crime, so those arrested for drunk driving will be prosecuted in court and if convicted, will have to pay stiff fines and will likely spend some time in jail, depending on the judge presiding over the case. The legal consequences are only going to become more serious in DUI accident cases, particularly when other people suffered injuries or there is property damage.
And when somebody dies because of the accident, the at-fault driver will be facing vehicular manslaughter charges, a felony with more severe consequences once the driver is convicted.
Dram shop laws
In DUI accidents, authorities are tasked to look beyond the drunk driver when determining liability. Under “dram shop laws,” DUI accident victims can sue business establishments that served drinks to a person who later caused the crash that caused injury, property damage, or death.
These dram shop laws, which are currently enforced in 38 states, also hold liable for any drunk driving accident the hosts of a social gathering who allow a guest whom they know to be intoxicated to get behind the wheel and drive away.
In cases where the drunk driver who caused the accident is a minor, victims can also file a case against the adults who provided alcohol to the at-fault driver. Some states are even stricter when it comes to their dram shop laws. If a minor causes a drunk-driving accident and law enforcement finds out that he or she had been drinking in a certain home right before the crash, its owners will be facing charges as well, and it doesn’t matter if they know the minor had been drinking inside their residence or not.
Whichever party you are in a DUI accident, it is important that you get an experienced DUI attorney by your side to help you see all the legal matters through until the conclusion of the case.

Arizona DUI Team