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 From an emotional standpoint, a case where someone is accused driving under the influence and killing another person is one of the toughest.  With the victim, you usually have someone who did not deserve to die.  They are often young, in the prime of their lives.  They are usually also close to the driver.  The victim is often a spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, or sibling of the accused.  Unfortunately, that person is not available to express forgiveness to the driver.
As for the driver, you often have a person who has never been in trouble in his life.  He may be college educated, have a great job, and a loving family.  But for this horrible incident he would have continued to be an upstanding citizen.
Recently, a San Jose woman pled guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter after hitting and killing a 79 year old grandmother.  She is waiting to be sentenced by a Santa Clara County judge.  Her maximum possible sentence is 12 years in the state prison.  In fact, the judge is precluded from granting this woman probation unless he finds “unusual circumstances” where the interests of justice require it.  According to statements, the family of the victim has forgiven the defendant, and believes that the victim would forgive her as well.  Unfortunately, California DUI sentencing law provides somewhat less opportunity for the Court to forgive her. 

As a former prosecutor, I can tell you that, regardless of the outcome, nobody wins in these cases.  Regardless of what side you are on there is nothing but tragedy in these cases.  An innocent victim loses her life, and a contrite survivor is cast into the hell of the California prison system.  

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A Hudson County Sheriff’s Officer was charged with a second DWI offense, which caused her suspension.  Sheriff’s Officer Aleisha Cruz was arrested on a drunk driving charge after being involved in a crash.

Cruz has been suspended without pay pending the outcome of the police investigation into her arrest early Sunday morning on March 1, 2009.  She was involved in an accident near the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel and she was arrested because of her behavior after she refused to take a breathalyzer test, according to officials.

Almost three years ago, Cruz had pleaded guilty to drunk driving and refusing to submit to a breath test in connection to a July 2005 incident in Lyndhurst.  During that incident, Cruz became extremely upset when her date informed her that he wasn’t going to spend the night with her.  She was so angry that she drove her 2005 Ford Explorer into this vehicle, police said.  When her date got out of his car to try to calm her down, she hit him with the SUV, but according to police, he was not seriously injured.

After the July 2005 incident, Cruz entered a pre-trial intervention program and the charges of aggravated assault and assault with an automobile were to be dropped, as long as she stayed out of trouble for 18 months.

Cruz has not been allowed to carry a gun and has been assigned duties that can be completed by an unarmed officer.


Category: Keyword Search: New Jersey blood-alcohol level

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A man being accused of DWI in New Jersey, is using a rare legal defense known as “pathological intoxication.”  Eugene Baum Jr., a Dover man, has been accused of drunk driving and killing two teenage pedestrians in Kinnelon almost three years ago.

According to the pathological intoxication defense, someone can have a condition where they regularly become so intoxicated that they have no control over their alcohol or drug addictions and are unaware of their actions.

Baum’s DWI defense attorney claims that Baum had been hospitalized three times before the fatal accident two years ago for alcoholism.  On the evening of the crash, he was operating as if he was on “autopilot” and was oblivious to his actions.  His attorney went on to describe Baum as “a sick individual who suffers from a medical condition of pathological intoxication.”

The attorney from the New Jersey Crime Victims’ Law Center feels that Baum’s defense is just a gimmick and said the only time you see such a defense is on a television show, such as Law and Order.

John Kip Cornwell, an associate dean and professor of law at Seton Hall Law School, likened Baum’s pathological intoxication defense to an insanity defense. 

“It’s a very rare defense.  He’s trying to thread a needle that would link all of these things together,” said Cornwell.

Baum has been charged with two counts of first-degree aggravated manslaughter in the April 20, 2006 deaths of Mayada Jafar of Kinnelon, 15, and Athear Jafar of Jefferson, 16.  When Baum was arrested for DWI, his blood-alcohol level was 0.305 percent, almost four times higher than New Jersey’s legal limit of 0.08 percent.

The pathological intoxication claim may be allowed, as involuntary intoxication is not prohibited as a defense. 

Category: Keyword Search: New Jersey blood-alcohol level