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Fleeing DUI Driver Strikes Bicyclist And Parked Car In West Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA – A suspected drunk driver was taken in custody in West Philadelphia after he tried to flee and evade police officers. While he was attempting to flee, he hit a 22-year-old man riding a bicycle and also struck a parked car.

The incident took place on Saturday and started around 12:40 a.m. Police tried to stop a vehicle which was speeding and travelling in the wrong lane of a two-way street at 5500 Spruce Street. However, the driver completely ignored the police and struck a bicyclist. The incident took place in the 800 block of South 56th Street in Cobbs Creek.

The driver, who was thought to be driving while under the influence then continued to flee while officers pursued him. He hit a parked vehicle which caused the parked vehicle to strike another parked vehicle. The vehicle was parked along the 5000 block of Baltimore Avenue.

After the driver hit the parked vehicle, he tried to flee from the scene in foot. He was later found at his home by the police where he was arrested.

The bicyclist who was hit by the drunk driver sustained several injuries and was taken to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. He sustained injuries to his arms, legs and neck. However, he was listed to be in stable condition.

The drunk driver who tried to flee from the accident spots was expected to be charged with DUI, leaving the scene of an accident, recklessly endangering another person and similar offenses. The identity of the 20-year-old driver was not immediately released by the police.

News Source: Philadelphia.CBSLocal.com

Drexel Hill Man Charged With Aggravated Assault After Slamming Into Three Vehicles While DUI

UPPER DARBY – A DUI crash that took place on Sunday resulted in a Drexel Hill man being charged with aggravated assault and related offenses.

According to police reports, the man was driving under the influence, seriously injured a 31-year-old woman and also slammed into three vehicles.

The offender, identified as 57-year-old Ronald Devuono of the 3800 block of Bonsall Avenue, was driving a bright orange 2014 Dodge Charger when he went for a Sunday drive through Drexel Hill area around 5 p.m. Police reports state that he allegedly had an open bottle of Don Perignon in the vehicle.

Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood said that Devuono struck a parked 2014 Jeep Cherokee while driving in the area of Childs Avenue and Lasher Road. The incident caused significant damage to the Jeep and Devuono fled the scene at a high rate of speed. However, witnesses were able to note the license number of his car.

After fleeing from the scene, Devuono went in the area of Garrett Road and Congress Avenue where he smashed his car into a 1999 Toyota Corolla within five minutes of the first crash. The Corolla was being driven by a woman. She suffered serious injuries as a result of the collision and was admitted to Delaware County Memorial in serious condition with multiple fractures. After his car bounced off the Toyota, he then smashed into a 2004 Acura.

His vehicle then bounced onto the trolley racks before it came to a stop. Devuono then leaned out of his Charger to empty a bottle of Dom Perignon onto the ground according to witnesses.

“When police officers arrive, he can just about get out of the car. There was a strong odor of alcohol and he flunked field sobriety tests,” said Chitwood.

Devuono suffered several injuries in the crash. He was taken to Delaware County Memorial Hospital for treatment of his injuries and for blood tests.

Chitwood commented on the incident saying, “Here’s a guy who could have killed numerous people, not only in vehicles, but on the sidewalk. Fortunately, nobody got killed, but the woman he hit suffered significant injuries.”

Devuono faces several charges as a result of the incident including driving under the influence, aggravated assault by vehicle while DUI, reckless driving, careless driving, accident involving damage to unattended vehicle or property, failure to stop and render aid, reckless endangerment and related offenses.

He is being held in Delaware County prison on 10 percent of $25,000 bail.

Source: www.DelcoTimes.com

Drunk Driver Slams Into Two Vehicles And A Cruiser At Intersection

MONTGOMERY TWP., Pa. – A dash cam video has been released by the Montgomery Township officers of a drunk driving suspect who slammed into two vehicles on an intersection before crashing violently into a police cruiser.

The officer driving the cruiser was waiting at a red light when a car careened through the intersection, before crashing into the police cruiser and other vehicles.

Montgomery Township officers responded to reports of a vehicle collision and entrapment at an intersection according to the reporter.

The crash was recorded by the dash cam on the cruiser. Another vehicle was also struck by the drunk driver but it was not recorded on camera.

The driver of the vehicle was charged with DUI. There were no serious injuries from the accident and only one single minor injury was reported.

After the incident, the drunk driver showed little remorse after the accident. According to CBS Philadelphia, he reportedly told the police that he didn’t understand why those involved in the crash were upset.

Police Chief Scott Bendig said, “This could have been catastrophic. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured.”

The dash cam video was released by the department to reinforce the dangers of drunk driving.

News Source: www.PoliceOne.com

Camden County police officer faces DWI charges in crash that toppled sign

A Camden County police officer has been charged with DWI after he allegedly drove a red pickup truck through three street signs on Friday 20 June, shortly before 2 am. The crash happened at Route 38 and Church Road. The officer was removed from street duty after the incident.

The officer, 21-year old William A. Grasso of Hammonton, N.J., is facing drunken driving charges. After driving through the three street signs, he struck a building and also knocked down a neon sign for Benash Liquors in Cherry Hill. He was charged with driving while intoxicated and reckless driving. Grasso was off-duty at the time.

According to police, it was not clear where Grasso was coming from at that time. Grasso was also removed from police duty after the crash. The Camden County police department’s internal affairs unit is investigating the crash.

Their police spokesman Mike Daniels said, “The officer has been taken off the street and relieved of police powers as the facts of this incident are ascertained.”

Daniels said that Grasso could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. It is not known if Grasso has an attorney or not.

An accident report filed by Cherry Hill police stated that Grasso’s truck hopped a curb in the traffic circle median. It then struck two road signs before going back onto the road and hopping another curb. The truck then plowed into another road sign before it finally rammed into the longtime liquor store sign. After that, the truck hit part of a brick retaining wall and finally stopped after hitting a tree.

Grasso suffered from head trauma after all the crashes and was also bleeding. He was taken to Kennedy Health System in Cherry Hill.

The liquor store sign in which Grasso crashed had been around since 1947. According to the co-owner of Benash Liquors, Rich Brooks , the sign was considered an area icon. It was known for its red and yellow arrow pointing toward the store’s door. “The guy pretty much destroyed it,” Brooks said.

Brooks took photos of the damage early Friday after he learnt about the crash. The snapped photos show the pickup’s windshield severely cracked and the front end nearly totaled.

Grasso’s blood sample was taken to check his BAC level, but his blood alcohol content level was not released by Cherry Hill police. According to the accident report, his blood test results were “pending.”

Grasso was nominated for officer of the week in September 2013 for his “outstanding police work” as is mentioned on the Camden County police website. He is the second member of the Camden County Police Department to be entangled with the authorities while off-duty.

Grasso is scheduled to appear in court next Wednesday.

News Source: Articles.Philly.com

Man charged with DUI after fatal motorcycle crash

UPPER DARBY – On Friday night, a fatal collision took place between a vehicle and a motorcycle at the intersection of Coverly and Marshall roads, which resulted in the death of a Lansdowne man.

47-year-old Gregory Hayes was pronounced dead at the accident scene at 11:12 p.m. He was of the 200 block of Braddock Road. Hayes is a Philadelphia School District police officer who was on his way to work the midnight shift. He was riding a motorcycle to work.

The suspect, identified as 30-year-old Salome A. Seay, of the 200 block of Coverly Road, in the Lansdowne post office section of Upper Darby was driving the vehicle that struck Hayes. He was arrested and charged with DUI and homicide by vehicle DUI related.

According to police Superintendent Michael Chitwood, “This is a tragedy that should never have happened.” It was later found out that Hayes was married and a father of two very young kids. He was wearing a helmet when the accident happened and had the right of way and did everything right.

“It looks like the defendant was trying to drag race with another motorist and when the light turned green he took off at a high rate of speed and just turned right in front of the guy on motorcycle. It’s just a tragedy,” said Chitwood.

Two witnesses present at the scene reported seeing the man driving a red Silverado pickup truck at an estimated speed of 65 to 75 mph before he cut off the motorcyclist.

Hayes was riding a Suzuki motorcycle and was traveling the eastbound direction on Marshall Road when Seay allegedly made a left turn which caused his motorcycle to broadside the passenger side of the truck.

When officers arrived at the scene, they detected an odor of alcohol on the driver. They took a BAC test and also a field sobriety test.

According to Chitwood, “He flunked every field test, the PBT (portable breath test) and field test and was taken to the hospital for blood testing.”

Seay was taken into custody and was arraigned on charges of DUI, homicide by vehicle,homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence, aggravated assault while DUI, careless driving, improper left turn and reckless driving.

His preliminary hearing is scheduled for May 16 before Magisterial District Judge Christopher Mattox. He was held in lieu of posting 10 percent of $100,000 bail pending his hearing.

News Source: www.DelcoTimes.com

Drunk driver accused of hitting and killing teen will not be charged

LEVITTOWN, Pa. – According to police reports, a driver accused of hitting and killing a teenager from Bucks County and injuring another one while driving under the influence of a prescription drug will not be charged. The driver was also under the influence of cocaine.

The victim’s family members say it is a miscarriage of justice.

The victim, identified as 15-year-old Zachary Gonzalez, was struck and killed along Route 13 while riding his bike with his friends. The incident took place 3 months ago, but police tape still marks the spot where the incident took place.

Since the DA’s office says that it cannot charge the suspect in the teen’s death, the grief of the victim’s family is turning into rage.

Sarah Hughes, the mother of the second victim injured in the crash said, “After two children went over your windshield that’s what you cared about? And the DA doesn’t think that’s enough evidence.”

The drunk driver allegedly struck her son Jeffrey, and his friend Gonzalez, as they rode their bikes along the stretch of Route 13 in Levittown in January.

Jeffrey is still struggling and dealing with the aftermath of the crash and has not given his statement on camera yet.

The offender, identified as 60-year old Brian Patterson, was driving under the influence of prescription drugs and cocaine when he hit the boys. According to the police, he don’t have enough evidence to prove that the drugs were the reason behind the crash.

Matt Hoover, Assistant District Attorney for Bucks County said, ” Multiple witnesses to the crash confirmed the victim entered the road way on his bicycle and the defendant did not have any time to react and avoid the crash.”

Patterson was located at his home by Fox 29, but he refused to talk about the crash. They also found that Patterson had a history of drug and DUI charges, which date back up to 15 years. Patterson has also pleaded guilty to driving while his operating privileges were suspended. This happened just a week before the January crash.

“He hit somebody and they’re no longer here. And he hurt my child and that’s not ok and I want to know why he’s not getting charged with that,” Hughes said.

If Patterson is convicted, he will face a mandatory 3-day jail sentence and up to one year in prison for each of the two drug possession charges.

News Source: www.MyFoxPhilly.com

Study reveals that drunk-driving deaths may be under-reported in U.S.

A new study carried out by researchers reveals that the role of alcohol in U.S. traffic deaths may be significantly under-reported.

The study used data from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System which notes the blood alcohol levels of people killed in traffic accidents. They analyzed the data and compared it with data on death certificates from all the states and reported that more than 3 percent of death certificates listed alcohol as the contributing factor in fatal car crashes between the years 1999 and 2009. However, data provided by NHTSA showed that 21 percent of people who were killed in crashes were legally drunk. Results of their study were published in the March issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

The researchers who carried out the study suggested that alcohol is often not included on death certificates as the cause of death because it can take a long time to actually get the blood-alcohol test results of the victim. When a person dies, the death certificate is usually filed within three to five days of the death. However, test results to determine blood alcohol level of the individual may take longer than that.

The study also revealed that some states are more likely to include alcohol on death certificates as the cause of death compared to other states. However, the reason for this variation is not clear.

The study also revealed that about half of the states require that drivers killed in traffic crashes be tested for blood-alcohol levels currently. However, only 70 percent of those drivers are tested nationwide.

The news release published by the researchers also identified that this type of information is important for several reasons, such as for assessing the impact of policies that are meant to reduce alcohol-related deaths.

According to Ralph Hingson, with the U.S. National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, who was also the study leader, “You want to know how big the problem is, and if we can track it. Is it going up, or going down? And what policy measures are working?”

News Source: www.CBSNews.com

AAA survey reveals that fewer motorists consider DWI a ‘very serious’ safety problem

According to a recent survey conducted by AAA, fewer motorists in New Jersey today consider drunk driving to be a ‘very serious’ safety problem. The same survey conducted four years ago showed a different result.

A total of 1,000 random motorists from around the state were participants of the survey which was conducted in November. The survey asked respondents to rank the problem of DWI. They were given 4 options to choose from:

  • “very serious”
  • “somewhat serious”
  • “not very serious” and
  • “not serious at all”

In 2009, a total of 87 percent of the participants answered “very serious,” compared to only 81 percent of respondents this year.

According to Cathleen Lewis, a spokeswoman for the AAA Clubs of New Jersey, this relaxed attitude toward DWI is troubling because attitudes can reflect behavior. “I think if people start to see it as less serious, there is the possibility that people start to slip when it comes to engaging in the activity. They might be less likely to insist on a designated driver or they might have that second drink,” she said. “I think if people start to see it as less serious there is the possibility that people start to slip when it comes to engaging in the activity,” she added.

A broad driving-related survey is conducted by AAA around the state every other year as part of its bi-annual report to the legislature. This report covers the attitude and behavior of New Jersey motorists.

Results for this year’s survey were released last week which reported fewer drivers to be texting behind the wheel as compared to a survey conducted two years ago, in late 2011. The results were 27 percent this year and 33 percent for 2011.

Similarly, respondents were asked to rank the danger of driving while under the influence of prescription medication in the November survey, and the share of drivers who answered “very dangerous” fell to 61 percent.

The survey also broke down answers to questions according to the education level of the respondents. The motorist’s level of education level and their response shows an inverse relationship when it comes to responding to the dangers of driving while on prescription drugs. For example, figures show that 88 percent of respondents with high school degrees or less education said driving on prescription drugs was either “very serious” or “somewhat serious,” whereas only 5 percent said it was “not serious at all.”

On the other hand, 83 percents of respondents who had a college degree considered it “very serious” and 7 percent said it was not serious at all. Also, 78 percent of those respondents with a master’s degrees or higher, viewed driving on prescription drugs as very or somewhat serious, while 10 percent of these highly educated respondents found it not to be serious at all.

News Source: www.NJ.com

Montgomery county woman gets 4-8 years for causing fatal accident

31-year-old Sarah Ann Derstein, of Lansdale, was sentenced to 4 to 8 years in prison as a result of a an accident which resulted in the death of a teenager last year. According to police reports, Derstein was driving drunk and was reading a text message when the accident took place.

Police reports show that Derstein drove her car into a group of boys who were walking along the shoulder of the road. 15-year old Dennis Kee was killed when the car hit him and another teen was injured.

A report by the prosecutors showed that Derstein fled the accident scene but later returned to talk with the police. Her blood-alcohol level was found to be more than twice the legal limit for driving. The crash took place in April on Route 309 in Hatfield Township.

Derstein was seen weeping at the court hearing as she apologized to the victim’s relatives.

She pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide last fall along with several other charges like accidents involving bodily injury and driving under the influence. As a result of her plea, other charges such as reckless endangering and reckless driving were dropped.

Assistant District Attorney Jordan Friter sought a stiff sentence, calling Derstein a “human missile capable of destroying anything in her path” that night.

News Source: www.Philly.com

DUI case is not a Game-Changer according to Lawyers

According to the Pennsylvania defense lawyers, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s refusal to accept an appeal of the Superior Court’s ruling that the accuracy of alcohol breath tests in highest-rate driving under the influence cases must be determined at trial, has taken much of the steam out of what once seemed as it can be a game-changer for DUI law.

A DUI lawyer with Wagner & Spreha in Harrisburg, Pa, Edward F. Spreha Jr., who was not involved in the case, said that Commonwealth v. Schildt, which had the potential to impact large number of pending driving under the influence cases all over Pennsylvania, is now merely “a footnote”.

According to Spreha and other DUI attorneys, the case did raise an unusual challenge to the scientific accuracy of those tests, the merits of which remain unaddressed by state appellate courts. Arguments same like that may be used either as pretrial bargaining chips or trial defenses going forward, said attorneys.

A Philadelphia DUI defense and personal injury lawyer, Cary B. McClain said, “There’s now a legitimate issue to litigate before a jury and it gives the defense bar room to negotiate for a fair compromise”.

On 25th of February, the high court denied allocator in Schildt.

Last October, defense counsel had asked the justices to take up the case, saying that allowing the accuracy of breath test proof to be determined prior to trial “promotes uniformity in the law, gives a clear signal to future litigants and is also scientifically correct”.

In September 2013, a three-judge Superior Court panel overturned Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas Judge Lawrence F. Clark Jr.’s controversial ruling in Schildt saying that alcohol breath test proof in a driving under the influence case on the grounds that Clark’s determination was premature.

Clark found that breath alcohol testing devices that were used by law enforcement cannot accurately detect BAC level above or below the calibrated range of 0.05 to 0.15% and therefore are not enough to meet the burden of evidence in highest-rate driving under the influence cases.

Lawyers said that Clark’s ruling had the potential to impact a large number of pending DUI cases all around Pennsylvania but the Superior Court never found a scientific analysis of the breath tests in its seven-page memorandum opinion, instead finding that Clark abused his discretion in granting pretrial habeas corpus relief to defendant Jason R. Schildt due to the reason that the state made at least a prima facie showing that Schildt had been driving with a BAC level of 0.16% or above.

The court wanted the case for trial.

Judge Cheryl Lynn Allen said Clark “manifestly abused” his discretion by requiring the state to establish beyond a reasonable doubt the reliability of the breath test administered to Schildt at such an early stage in the case. “In short, the trial court prematurely and improperly held the commonwealth to its burden of proof at trial, in granting appellee’s pretrial motion to quash the complaint”.

Judges Susan Peikes Gantman and Sallie Updyke Mundy were with Allen in making the decision.

Justin J. McShane of the McShane Firm in Harrisburg, said that he did not consider it to be a loss due to the reason that it merely focused on the timing of Clark’s ruling, while leaving the scientific analysis in Clark’s opinion “undisturbed”.

Schildt urged the court to address the scientific analysis in his petition to the Supreme Court, saying the case “presents the best opportunity to provide guidance on a statewide level as to this repetitive issue”. Schildt argued in the petition, “this exact matter will be litigated hundreds if not thousands of times” all over the state but now that the justices have declined to hear arguments in the case, driving under the influence defense attorneys said they don’t believe the courts will be inundated with similar challenges to breath tests.

According to them, a large number of law enforcement agencies all over Pennsylvania have moved away from breath testing to blood testing.

Spreha said, “If you want to fight it on a case-by-case basis, you have to bring in the experts and spend the cash”.

A DUI lawyers with Fairlie & Lippy in North Wales, Pa., Steven F. Fairlie said that defense experts in cases like Schildt “probably cost in the area of $20,000. The average citizen can’t afford that”.

For those defendants with the means to challenge breathe tests, according to the attorneys it can be difficult to justify advising a client to take a driving under the influence case to court.

Advising a client to challenge a breath test at trial means advising a client to risk jail time in lieu of simply accepting ARD, said Fairlie.

Spreha said that lawyers will require gauging whether judges in a particular county have exhibited a proclivity for siding with the defense when they make arguments similar to those that rose in Schildt. “If you know all the judges are finding people guilty regardless of your argument, it’s hard to say to your client, ‘Let’s try again”.

According to Spreha, jury trials are risky due to the reason of their unpredictability but lawyers did agree that the scientific challenge raised in Schildt is an interesting one that could gain traction under the right trial situations.

McClain said, “It’s a good argument and I think you could see juries getting persuaded to follow it”.

News Source: www.TheLegalIntelligencer.com

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