Lawmaker charged with DWI days after condemning drunk driving

New York Republican lawmaker Brian Kolb charged with DWI days after condemning drunk driving

New York Assemblyman Brian Kolb was arrested and charged with misdemeanor driving while intoxicated after a crash on New Year’s Eve. 

Deputies responded to a crash at 10:27 p.m. Tuesday in Ontario County, New York, and identified Kolb as the driver of the 2018 GMC Arcadia involved in the incident. No one was injured, and no other vehicles were involved.

Kolb was in the vehicle in a ditch in front of his home when the deputy arrived, Ontario County Sheriff Kevin Henderson said. Kolb cooperated with deputies, Henderson added. 

The vehicle Kolb was driving is registered to New York state, Henderson said. 

Kolb failed a field sobriety test and was arrested, Henderson said. While at the Ontario County Jail, Kolb was given a Breathalyzer test, which indicated his blood-alcohol content was over 0.08%, Henderson said.

Kolb, who was charged with DWI and unsafe turn, was processed at the Ontario County Jail and is scheduled to appear later in court.

The sheriff declined to reveal from where Kolb was headed or how far he had traveled.

“Mr. Kolb made the choice to operate a motor vehicle on the highway in an intoxicated manner, and now he’s being held accountable,” Henderson said.

New York Assemblyman Brian Kolb failed a field sobriety test on New Year's Eve and was arrested, police said.
New York Assemblyman Brian Kolb failed a field sobriety test on New Year’s Eve and was arrested, police said.

In a statement Wednesday morning, Kolb acknowledged his arrest:

“This was a terrible lapse in judgment, one I have urged others not to make, and I take full responsibility for it. I want to offer sincere apologies to my family, friends, colleagues, and the people of the 131st Assembly District. I fully recognize the severity of the situation and I am profoundly sorry. There is no excuse and no justification for what occurred Tuesday evening. I made the wrong decision, and it is one I deeply regret.”

Kolb has represented the 131st Assembly District since 2000 and has served as the assembly minority leader since 2009, the longest tenured legislative leader in Albany. The district covers all of Ontario County and a portion of Seneca County.

Kolb’s arrest came five days after he tweeted, “There is no excuse for driving impaired this holiday season.” That tweet, posted on Dec. 26, has since been deleted.

News of Kolb’s arrest prompted at least one assembly colleague and fellow Republican Kieran Michael Lalor to call for him to step down from his post.

BrianKolb should step down as Assembly Minority Leader,” Lalor tweeted. “That he hasn’t done so already is a disgrace.”

Henderson, a Democrat, said he believes in transparency after his joint news conference with Ontario County District Attorney Jim Ritts, who is a Republican.

“For me, politics has nothing to do with it,” Henderson said. “We’re both standing side-by-stating that he’s being treated no differently than anyone else. I am being very transparent about this. He’s afforded the same opportunity to go through the criminal justice program. He has taken ownership and he’s not denying this.”

News of the arrest of one of the state’s most powerful Republicans wasn’t released to the media until 12 hours after the crash.

Deputy Ian Hall, who handled the arrest, had to respond to other calls on a busy night and then complete an incident report, Henderson said.

After the report was completed, it was reviewed by supervisory sergeant and then by a lieutenant. Then the information can be released.

“We’re not trying to hide,” Henderson said, “and I think we’ve proven that.”

Michael Whyland, a spokesman for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, declined to comment on Kolb’s arrest.

A Kolb spokesman did not respond Wednesday to whether taxpayers would be on the hook for any repairs to Kolb’s state-issued SUV.

Kolb has taken a strong stance against DWI in the past, including in 2009, when he and fellow Assembly Republicans backed Leandra’s Law.

“Leandra’s Law will help keep intoxicated motorists off our roadways and, most importantly, send a crystal clear message to someone who might even think about trying to drive drunk with a child passenger,” Kolb said at the time.

Driver Sent To Prison After Guilty Plea In Crash That Killed 11-Year-Old Girl

SALEM (CBS) — The drunk driver charged with causing the crash that killed an 11-year-old girl in Lawrence last summer has pleaded guilty. Selvin Manuel Lima, 24, was sentenced to 12-to-14 years in prison Monday followed by five years probation.

According to the Essex District Attorney’s Office, Lima was speeding away from a traffic stop when he hit a sedan carrying 11-year-old Taysha Silva, her mother, sister, cousin, and her mother’s boyfriend on July 13. Taysha died and the four others were seriously injured.

Selvin Manuel Lima was arraigned from his hospital bed July 15. (WBZ-TV)

In Salem Superior Court on Monday, Lima pleaded guilty to 10 charges, including manslaughter, three counts of operating under the influence causing serious bodily harm, and three counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.

Lima was also sentenced to nine-to-10 years based on the other charges, but the sentences will be served concurrently and he will receive credit for time served. Once he is released, Lima must adhere to curfews, and submit to random alcohol screenings while on probation.

He broke down in tears and apologized as he was sentenced.

Taysha Silva. (Photo credit: Roberto Silva)

Prosecutors also said Taysha’s eight-year-old sister suffered traumatic brain injuries in the crash. She still cannot walk and lost control of major body functions.

Tree Campaign Fails to Slow City’s Impaired Driving Trend

Police in Anchorage, Alaska, tried to highlight the danger of impaired driving with a December campaign.

The Associated Press

A tree adorned with colored ribbons representing December arrests for impaired driving stands on the third floor of the Anchorage Police Department on Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020, in Anchorage, Alaska. Police erected the tree in hopes of raising awareness of impaired driving. However, officers made so many arrests, the department ran out of blue ribbons and had to switch to plaid.

ANCHORAGE, ALASKA (AP) — Police in Anchorage, Alaska, issued a December challenge to community members to not drive while intoxicated.

To highlight the campaign, they erected a Christmas tree and said they would tie on a blue ribbon for every arrest for operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or marijuana.

The challenge was not heeded, Anchorage television station KTVA reported. The tree was quickly adorned, and police ran out of blue ribbon.

Through Dec. 14, Anchorage police placed 59 ribbons on the tree. Numbers continued to trend the wrong way after that. The department made 36 arrests for operating under the influence from Dec. 15 to Dec. 21.

“That’s 36 more ribbons on the tree,” the department said in a statement. “We ran out of blue ribbon (so did Costco) so we switched to plaid and had to start tying bows on the side because the front is full. This is no good. Don’t drive drunk or high. It just isn’t worth it.”

Final arrest numbers for December will be available next week, said Kendra Doshier, a department spokeswoman.

The department made 130 OUI arrests in December 2016. That climbed to 139 in 2017 and 150 in December 2018. The upward trend is frustrating for police.

“There’s just so many other things you can do other than get behind the wheel of that car and potentially end your life or the life of someone else,” said Renee Oistad, police department spokeswoman.

Local bar owners agreed.

“We don’t want over-consumption,” said Matt Tomter, owner of Matanuska Brewing Co. At the company’s three locations, he said, employees are instructed to look out for the safety of customers.

“We want everyone to have a good time, get everybody home safe, encourage people to take an Uber or Lyft if they’ve been drinking at all,” he said. All designated drivers receive free non-alcoholic drinks, he said.

Robert Isaac charged with OUI after crashing head-on into Springfield police cruiser on Main Street

Robert Isaac
Robert Isaac

SPRINGFIELD – The man who crashed head-on into a Springfield police cruiser on Main Street early Saturday was driving while intoxicated from alcohol, cocaine, and opioids, according to police.

Police spokesman Ryan Walsh said the man, 24-year-old Robert Issac of Wilbraham Avenue was arrested and charged with three counts of operating a vehicle while under the influence.

He was also charged with leaving the scene of a property damage accident, reckless operation of a motor vehicle, threatening to commit a crime, and assault and battery, Walsh said.

Issac was arrested just after 2 a.m. at Main near Bridge streets. Two officers witnessed him drive into another vehicle in the area of Main and Worthington. As they responded, Isaac headed south and drove into the cruiser.

A cellphone video of the crash, recorded by a passerby, shows Isaac’s car had already received heavy front end damage and was leaking radiator fluid when it slammed into the cruiser.

The officers were not injured. Isaac was taken to the hospital for treatment of minor injuries suffered in the crash.

While there, police say he assaulted one nurse and threatened to injure another.

He was released from the hospital Saturday afternoon and booked at police headquarters.

Isaac is due to appear in Springfield District Court Monday for his arraignment.

Driving Under the Influence and Prescription Drugs

When it comes to the operation of a motor vehicle while impaired where the sole intoxicant is prescription medication, the waters quickly get murky. 

The opioid epidemic has been a catalyst for several changes to criminal statutes in nearly every state. New laws setting harsh penalties for doctors or pharmacies complicit in running “pill mills,” or individuals with valid prescriptions who turn around and sell their medications for top dollar have become ubiquitous as legislatures seek ways to stem the flow of Percocet, Vicodin, Oxycontin, Fentanyl and several other powerful prescription medications. However, there is one area of criminal law which has grappled unsuccessfully with how to address the usage of these drugs and their potential implications on a person’s actions. When it comes to the operation of a motor vehicle while impaired where the sole intoxicant is prescription medication, the waters quickly get murky. Despite the ability to scientifically identify both the substances and their respective levels in a person’s body, the law remains vague on how to determine whether the prohibition against impaired driving was actually violated.

The obvious question, left completely unanswered by the New York legislature, is how to tell whether a person is impaired by drugs while operating a vehicle. By their very nature, prescription drugs are legal when appropriately taken and are, in many cases, necessary to allow a person to function. Without certain opioid pain medication, muscle relaxers, or mood stabilizers, some individuals have difficulty with everyday activities. But many of these medications have physiological effects, slow down reaction times, dull reflexes and cause fatigue, all of which could negatively influence a person’s ability to reasonably and safely operate a motor vehicle. When, then, can it be said that a person has become impaired by the use of these drugs?

In New York, the statutes that criminalize intoxicated driving are found in the Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL), specifically in §1192. In that section, subsections (1)-(3) very clearly define when a person can be arrested for drunk driving, and how to determine which alcohol-related statute applies. Notably, the law specifically states that when any individual has a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher, they are considered intoxicated for the purposes of a criminal prosecution. There is no such delineation or bright-line limit when the charges involve prescription drugs.

To further complicate the issue, some people are afflicted with serious injuries or conditions and require long-term medication simply to get through the day. The body builds up tolerances to medications over time, and consequently there are individuals who require a significantly higher dosage of a drug to get the intended effect. There are also issues when multiple drugs are present in an individual’s system. Prosecutors are not pharmacists, and the pharmacokinetic effects of multiple drug interactions are often complex and difficult to predict. Additionally, many drugs do not present with the visible signs of intoxication that are commonly associated with alcohol use (red watery eyes, slurred speech, unsteady gait, etc.) and drugs emit no discernible odor.

New York Code of Criminal Justice: A Practical Guide is a guide to the criminal statutes in New York. In addition to the full text of the New York Penal Law and Criminal …

Our firm recently tried a case in California where our client, who had been taking prescribed medications, was charged with murder after a horrific motor vehicle accident resulted in the fatality of a young girl. The trial revolved around the issue of impairment as California, similar to New York, does not clearly define when an individual is impaired by prescription drugs under the law. Contextual arguments made based on witness observations as well as our client’s statements took center stage after the State’s forensic crime laboratory expert testified that looking solely at the levels of medications in person’s system could never lead to a scientific conclusion regarding impairment. In the absence of a credible expert opinion on the issue of impairment, the jury was left with no scientific standard by which to measure the facts in order to determine whether our client was actually impaired.

The unfortunate truth is that far too often the decision on whether to charge impaired driving when prescription drugs are involved is results-driven. If there is an accident, especially one with serious injuries or a fatality, where the driver has taken prescription medication, the prosecutor is likely to charge driving while impaired. To prove their case at trial, since the medication levels alone do not establish intoxication, prosecutors must also focus on the quality of the defendant’s driving in order to show that there was actual impairment to the ability to operate the vehicle safely. But with no frame of reference, it can be difficult to differentiate between bad driver who simply caused an accident, as opposed to a person whose ability to drive was impaired by drugs to the degree that their driving was a criminal offense. Alternatively, if a serious injury or death does occur, a jury may be looking for an excuse to hold someone accountable, and impairment by prescription drugs presents a convenient explanation for why a traffic collision took place.

Because of the complexities inherent in these specific prosecutions, selection of a toxicology and pharmacology expert is vitally important. Toxicologists perform tests to determine what specific drugs are present and pharmacologists explain the effects of the substances on the body, or how multiple drugs would interact with each other. During a trial for impaired driving based on the use of prescription medication, it is necessary for the defense lawyer to present a clear and consistent alternative theory of the events leading to the arrest, one which explains why the defendant was not impaired, supported by something other than mere speculation. Without another possibility to consider, the jury will credit the prosecutor’s claim that the drugs were overpowering, and that the defendant should have known better than to drive in that condition. Witness observations and statements, photographs and accident reconstructions are integral in crafting a strong defense.

There is no question that DUI cases involving prescription medication are complicated and present a unique set of challenges. But after a thorough review of the evidence in the case, with attention to detail and putting all of the discovery into the appropriate context, top lawyers using credible experts craft strong defenses and use the lack of legislative clarity to their benefit, giving their clients the best chances for success.