48-Year-Old Driver Charged With DUI After Hitting 4 Children In Woodbury Heights

48-year-old Hector Rios of Wenonah was charged with DUI after he hit four children in Woodbury Heights on Tuesday evening.

According to the police, Rios was coming back from a relative’s house and was traveling north on Chestnut Avenue when his truck left the road on the right-hand side. The incident took place just before 8 pm. After that, Rios drifted back onto the road, went across the street and into the woods on the opposite side of the road.

However, just before entering the woods, his pickup struck four children who had been playing outside of a Chestnut Avenue home at the time of the accident. The kids included a 15-year-old girl, an 8-year-old boy and another boy and girl, who were both 4 years old.

The names of the kids were not released. All of them were taken to the trauma center at Cooper Hospital in Camden except the 4-year-old girl. The teenager and the 4-year-old boy sustained only bruises and were released after examination.

The 8-year-old boy had to undergo surgery for dental and jaw injuries, and got several stitches for various other wounds. He was still in the hospital on Wednesday afternoon. The little girl was treated at Inspira Medical Center in Woodbury for unspecified injuries and released later that night.

According to police reports, Rios’ foot never left the accelerator even after his vehicle came to a stop. The truck knocked down several small trees in the woods which got caught beneath it, preventing it from rolling onto a set of railroad tracks.

A neighbor who witnessed the whole accident rushed to help. He broke down the passenger side window to turn off the truck before pulling Rios from the driver’s seat.

Rios faced multiple charges including DUI, assault by auto while DWI, reckless driving and careless driving. He was held at the Salem County Jail on $25,000 bail.

Rios’ intoxication level was not disclosed by the police nor did they elaborate whether Rios was injured in the crash or not.

The incident is still under investigation by Ptl. Jason Neely and Investigator Gary Krohn of the Woodbury Heights Police Department.

News Source: www.NJ.com

Wrong-Way Cop Beat Prior DUI After State Failed To Turn Over Evidence

ROSELLE – The deadly wrong-way crash that took place in Staten Island on 20 March involved a Linden officer who had prior drunk-driving charges that were dismissed because his defense attorney was not given the evidence he repeatedly requested.

The charges were filed against Pedro Abad Jr. after an accident that happened on 22 January 2011 when he crashed through the walls of a Roselle store. However, the charges against 27-year-old Abad were dropped nearly a year later as evidence ordered by Municipal Court Judge Carl Marshall was not turned over. The requested evidence included State Police blood-testing reports and tapes of police transmissions.

According to Marshall, the court was left with no choice but to dismiss the case. An audio-recording of the court proceedings of the brief of 19 January, 2012 was made available with details.

The Roselle Municipal Prosecutor argued against the dismissal, stating that it is an “extremely serious case.”

When the deadly wrong-way crash took place, Abad was driving north in the southbound lanes of the West Shore Expressway in Staten Island. He crashed head-on into a tractor trailer and as a result, two passengers in the vehicle were fatally injured. These passengers included 28-year-old fellow Linden officer Frank Viggiano and 28-year-old Linden resident Joseph Rodriguez. Another passenger in the vehicle, 28-year-old Patrik Kudlac, also a Linden officer, was critically injured in the crash along with Abad. They were both transported to separate hospitals in Staten Island.

NYPD reported that the accident took place just before 5 a.m. when the men were coming back from a Curves strip club in Staten Island. NYPD obtained a warrant to test Abad’s blood alcohol level as it was not clear if he had been drinking that night or not.

His previous record shows that Abad had been charged with drunk driving in two separate incidents over the last four years. In one incident that took place in 2013, he was recorded on a police dash cam recording, unable to complete a field sobriety test. He faced multiple charges which resulted in the suspension of his driver’s license, which was restored in May 2014. According to state records, Abad was required to install an ignition interlock device in his vehicle until September 2013 after that incident.

In another incident that took place on 22 January 2011, Abad was driving his 2010 Audi A5 south on St. George Avenue when his vehicle went off the road at Rivington Avenue and crashed through the wall of the New Way Supermarket. A Roselle officer and firefighter who arrived at the scene smelled alcohol on him. His blood alcohol level was checked which came out to be 0.176 percent, more than twice the legal limit. He was taken to University Hospital where he was treated for injuries.

Less than a week after the accident, his attorney, Greggory Marootian, filed a list of requests for evidence. This included the kit used to take Abad’s blood sample, a copy of the manual outlining the procedures used to analyze the blood, and 12 months of reports on the servicing of the machine in the State Police laboratory used to conduct the analysis. He also requested audio recordings of police transmissions from the night of the accident.

Abad’s attorney also filed a motion five months later to suppress results of the blood sample testing of his client, arguing that a warrant was not obtained by the police to obtain a blood sample. Abad was in the hospital at the time his sample was drawn. However, according to Roselle police, officers were not required to obtain a warrant in 2011 as long as they had probable cause to believe the driver was driving drunk.

Eventually in August 2011, Marshall issued an order giving police 30 days to provide Marootian with the evidence he requested. In return, State Police provided six months of reports about the analysis machine, stating that this is what they normally supply. Two non-consecutive pages of standard procedures were also provided by the State Police. However, Marootian argued to the judge that 12 months of reports on the servicing of the machine and several pages of standard procedures were not turned over. He also argued that he had not received the audio recordings of police transmissions ad complained to the judge about delays in receiving the information in the hearing.

The judge noted the complaints and said he would give police one more month to provide the requested information. He also said that the case had dragged for nearly a year and if the requested information is still not supplied, he would consider a defense motion to dismiss the case.

Steven Merman, the Municipal Prosecutor, quickly argued against a dismissal, stating that Marootian had only requested the blood evidence be suppressed. “This is an extremely serious case,” he said at the Dec. 15, 2011 hearing.

The prosecutor also noted that Kendall Vaughn, the investigating police officer, had been out sick for a long time and had no control over the information that State Police supplied.

In the next hearing that took place on 19 January, 2012, the charges against Abad were dismissed. The hearing only lasted three minutes in which Marshall stated that he had originally given authorities until Sept. 30, 2011 to supply information to Marootian, but it had been more than three months above the deadline and he had yet to receive it.

Marootian and Merman, both declined to comment on the case when contacted.

News Source: www.NJ.com

Drunk Rutherford Man Fatally Strikes Young Mom

RUTHERFORD – 24-year-old Victor Kwak of Rutherford was driving drunk when he hit and killed 28-year-old Sandra Munoz-Molina of Carlstadt almost two years ago.

The woman, who was a mother of four, was walking home from work on 22 August 2013 when a Lexus hit her around 7:40 pm.

Kwak will serve up to five years in prison after he told a Superior Court judge in Hackensack Wednesday that he was driving drunk that night. His sentencing is scheduled to be held on 18 September.

News Source: www.NJ.com

Politician’s Lawsuit Over Drunken-Driving Stop Tossed Aside By Judge

CAMDEN, N.J. – The lawsuit filed by Democratic Assemblyman Paul Moriarty of New Jersey against the Washington Township police department has been tossed aside by a federal judge in Camden.

The New Jersey politician was involved in a drunken-driving traffic stop in 2012. The stop led to a law requiring police to mount video cameras in their cars.

The lawsuit filed by Moriarty stated that the police department failed to train and supervise its employees adequately. He contested the drunken driving charge against him on the basis that he was the victim of a rogue police officer.

Several months after his arrest, Moriarty showed a squad car video to reporters that would vindicate him. The charges against him were dropped and the arresting officer was accused of making a bogus arrest.

According to Moriarty’s lawyer, the ruling does not preclude his client from seeking damages from the officer.

News Source: www.App.com

How Police Departments Handle The Problem Of Drunk Driving Cops

Drunk driving cops have become a major problem in Salt Lake City. An extreme example of such an incident was the case of Linden Police officer Pedro Abad who has been arrested for drunk driving twice, once when he was involved in a fatal wrong-way crash last month.

Police reports state that police officers from Salt Lake City carry more than just their identification when they go to a social event; the business card of Police Chief Chris Burbank. The card lists phone numbers of taxi companies so officers who have been drinking are encouraged to call a cab. He then picks up the tab and the tip; the program has not cost him a lot, just “a handful of rides a month,” he said. This is an example of what police is doing across the country to stem the toll of law enforcement personnel who drink and drive, leading to tragic results.

In the wrong-way crash that took place on 20 March on the West Shore Expressway in Staten Island and took the lives of 2 people, Abad, who was driving the car, was not charged. Abad and another officer were injured in the crash and hospitalized whereas fellow officer Frank Viggiano and Linden resident Joseph Rodriguez both died in the crash. The crash happened when the vehicle struck a tractor-trailer truck while travelling north in the southbound lanes.

A survey taken on police drunk-driving incidents shows a patchwork effort to tackle the problem. Some departments are lenient in their approach whereas others are more firm and offer no room for a second chance. However, the exact extent of the problem is not known as the state and federal agencies do not track drunk driving incidents in which police officers are involved.

According to an article published in the Police Executive Research Forum in 2012, the Los Angeles Police Department, along with some other departments, have told officers convicted of drunk driving to sign a contract promising to stay sober and seek professional help if they want to keep their job. In other states such as in Tampa, Florida, police have no resource after a zero-tolerance policy for officers arrested on drunk driving charges; the rule was imposed in 2009 and luckily no one violated the policy until last year when Officer Anton Lipski was charged.

The program in Salt Lake City is a free-ride program which just raises awareness about drinking and driving and gives officers an easy way out of trouble. Ever since the program was started five years ago, no officer from Salt Lake City has been arrested and charged for drunk driving.

According to a research carried out by Dr. Philip Stinson, a Bowling Green State University professor of criminal justice and a former police officer, there is a small set of police who continue to pose danger on the road. These officers continue to drive even after they have been caught driving under the influence.

Stinson led a nationwide study from 2005-2010 in which he found 14 cases of police officers who have been arrested and charged with drunk driving at least twice. During the same time period, researchers tracked a total of 782 police officer arrests for drunk driving, so repeat offenders contributed to a fraction of the incidents, including 191 injuries, 91 cases of officers fleeing the scene, 27 murder or manslaughter charges and 26 cases when officers flipped their vehicles.

Stinson wanted to research police officers involved in drunk-driving incidents but he could not find any reliable evidence in those cases. As a result, he began cataloging police arrests, starting in 2005, in which he compiled new accounts based on internet searches. The data was compiled through 2010 by his team and new accounts are verified by the police.

A paper published in 2013 with data of drunk driving police officers shows that the “problem is based on the police subculture and the sense of power and entitlement that some police officers have,” according to Stinson. Charges are not filed against these officers because of “professional courtesy.”

However, according to Dr. Maria Haberfeld, this all depends on police integrity. Haberfeld, who is a professor of Police Science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, says “it depends on the police department,” but most of the time, professional courtesy will be the preferred response” by police which cannot be offered all the time.

Another case is of Pa. Police Officer Richard Hoffman who was off-duty when he was involved in a drunk driving accident. He had to be pulled from the wreckage and his blood alcohol levels came out to be twice the legal limit. Hoffman also had other alcohol-related complaints, when he shoved and verbally abused a Philadelphia police officer in 2005. He was fired from duty but an arbitrator ruled earlier this year that he should have been suspended instead of being fired.

Although the problem of police officers driving drunk is a serious issue, it appears that police are drinking less, according to Tom Aveni, executive director of the Police Policy Studies Council. Aveni is also a retired police officer in New Hampshire. He says that officers are more health conscious as compared to the common man, which is why they avoid driving drunk. They are also concerned about accountability, which is why police departments are more professional these days as compared to 30 or 40 years ago.

According to Stinson, his research is unclear about the role of police unions in police-related drunk driving incidents. In some jurisdictions which operate without police unions, departments usually fire any wrongdoers but then drop the charges at a later stage and reinstate the wrongdoer. Police also get lenient treatment in court as they are often there professionally and deal with the court day in and day out.

Recently, a number of drunk driving cases involving law enforcement personnel have been reported in Vermont, Texas and Philadelphia, Massachusetts etc.

There is however conflicting evidence about whether police drink more than the general public. A study carried out to check this stated that this is actually an “urban myth” and nothing substantial could be found.

Another study published in 2012 in the Journal of Criminal Justice found that although law enforcement personnel did not abuse alcohol, they are more likely to binge drink. Since police work is quite stressful, they should have resources to cope with them in a healthy manner.

Stinson said that the drunk driving issue among cops is not being dealt seriously. Apart from collecting data on police drunk driving problem, he is now focusing his attention on police shootings.

News Source: www.NJ.com

Paterson Fire Department Captain Charged With DWI

PATERSON – Glenn Calamita, captain of the Paterson fire department, faces disciplinary action after he was charged with DUI in Wayne two weeks ago.

According to officials, Calamita was involved in a motor crash while off-duty that happened in the early morning hours on 18 March. He was arrested after the crash and has not returned to work since the accident. Paterson Fire Chief Michael Postorino stated that Calamita was unable to return to work due to medical reasons as he sustained injuries in the crash.

Postorino and Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres stated that Calamita will likely face departmental charges before he returns to work. If the department goes ahead and files the charges, Calamita would be suspended without pay pending the outcome of his disciplinary case. The fire department is allowed to impose an unpaid suspension for up to six months, said Postorino. Right now, they are waiting for the authorities to provide all the information in his case.

At the moment, it is also not clear if anyone else other than Calamita was injured in the crash. The exact location where the incident took place is also not known yet.

Further details of the incident were not provided by Wayne police. The department said that they do not issue press releases on DWI cases.

News Source: www.NorthJersey.com

Mayor Derek Armstead Promises Investigation Of City’s Handling Of Officer With Drunk-Driving Arrests

LINDEN – Mayor Derek Armstead announced that an investigation will be started to look into the case of Officer Pedro Abad who was involved in a wrong-way crash last week on Staten Island that killed two passengers.

Reports of officer Abad’s prior drunk driving arrests also came forth after the incident in which another Linden officer and a Linden man died.

Armstead said that a complete and thorough investigation will be carried out to see what happens as well as of all the procedures and protocols that were followed or not followed when he was asked why Officer Pedro Abad remained on force despite the arrests and suspended license.

However, the department wants to get through the mourning process first as they lay the dead to rest. Funeral for 28-year-old Joseph Rodriguez, passenger in the accident, was held a day earlier and funeral for 28-year-old Linden Officer Frank Viggiano was held on 26 March, 2015.

The tragic incident took place last week on 20 March shortly before 5 a.m. when Abad was driving north in the southbound lanes of the West Shore Expressway in Staten Island. While going the worng-way, he collided head-on with a tractor-trailor.

A total of 4 people were present in the vehicle at the time of the crash. 27-year old fficer Abad, who was driving and 23-year-old Patrik Kudlac, a passenger in the vehicle, were both critically injured in the accident and remained in separate Staten Island hospitals. Two other passengers in the car died in the crash.

His past record shows that Abad was arrested and charged with driving under the influence on 26 February, 2013, when he struck a parked car in Rahway. His license was subsequently suspended until May 2014 and he was ordered to install an ignition interlock device in his vehicle until September 2014 by a judge.

Linden police was called by Rahway police to inform them about the DUI charge against Officer Abad.

Before that, Abad was involved in another incident in January 2011 when he crashed his car through the wall of a store in Rooselle while driving under the influence. That incident happened on the border of two municipalities and three Linden police officers responded to the accident spot.

This charge was later dismissed and Roselle municipal court records do not state the reason of dismissal. According to Borough officials, the case file was not immediately available.

Spokesman Mark Spivey was asked whether the Union County Prosecutor’s office would be part of an investigation of the Linden Police Department’s handling of Abad; he replied that the office does not comment or provide details for any active and on-going investigations. No information on confirmation or denial of their status or existence can be provided.

PBA representatives and Linden police also declined to comment on Abad’s case.

Linden police Capt. James Sarnicki passed a statement saying, “We do not want the memory of Officer Viggiano tarnished by negative publicity as we seek to comfort his family and loved ones.”

No further comments were provided by the department, by Linden PBA president Joseph Birch and State PBA president Patrick Colligan. However, the department stated that it would continue to provide police services to its more than 40,000 residents in a professional manner.

News Source: www.NJ.com

Montgomery County’s DUI Court Battles Sobering Problem

NORRISTOWN – DUI court in Montgomery County battles sobering problem as authorities seek to get repeat DUI offenders off the roads faster and bring DUI suspects before a judge quicker.

According to judge Cheryl Lynne Austin, DUI is a public safety issue. So everything is done to see that justice is swift to make the streets safer. People should be able to come home late from the movies without having to worry about drunk drivers, says Austin.

DUI Court, spearheaded by District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman, was implemented in January 2014 in Montgomery County after several years of discussions among judges and prosecutors. According to Ferman, the need behind this was to save lives. If anything can be done to save lives being killed, maimed or injured in horrible DUI crashes, a great service is being done for the community.

The court looked for ways to track and expedite DUIs in an effort to handle drunken driving offenses. DUI has comprised nearly one quarter of the county’s total criminal court caseload, and their goal is to make punishment consistent to get repeat offenders off the road.

Last year, DUI represented about 20 percent of the total dispositions of criminal cases. The figure was recorded at 1,250 DUI cases from a total of 6,199 criminal cases. The Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition probationary program disposed another 1,087 DUI cases which brought the total number of disposed cases last year to 2,337.

Similarly, the trial division disposed a total of 6,130 cases in 2013, from which DUI cases accounted to 1,355 cases. The ARD program also disposed 1,364 DUI cases, which brought the total number of disposed DUI cases to 2,719, according to county statistics.

DUI cases are now being treated as priority. Before 2014, other violent cases like those involving murder, robbery and rape took priority over DUI cases. The courts and attorneys had so much to deal with, that DUI cases were getting lost in the middle and courts and defenders were not noticing what people needed and the kind of treatment that should be provided to avoid similar incidents from happening in the future.

Since the cases were not dealt with on time, judges, prosecutors and lawyers realized that by the time offenders appeared in court, they had racked up repeat offenses after their first charge.

Because of these problems, DUI cases had to be streamlined into one court where all DUI cases would be heard together, ideally by one judge along with a team of DUI prosecutors to manage all DUI cases the same way in one place. Court is still working on this.

The second step taken to counter drunk driving in the county is to use new tracking methods to find repeaters. Officials in DUI court have reworked the model of monitoring criminal cases. In this model, the unit is run by names so when someone has multiple DUI files, all the files are put together. Previously, anyone with multiple DUIs will have separate files and each file was dealt with separately. Since the cases remained at different levels in the old method, the court could not consolidate them unless the defendant came to court to address all the cases at one time.

Under the new model, the DUI unit reviews the list of defendants every week, to identify cases of multiple DUIs in the system. Once someone with multiple DUIs is found, immediate action is taken to revoke or modify bail. Information is also shared between the DUI unit, local police and district judges about those who have been charged with multiple DUI offenses.

The third step taken in an effort to curb repeat offenders is encouragement of license surrender. Prosecutors are seeking to modify bail for certain offenders by imposing prohibition on driving, pending sentencing. Currently, those convicted of DUI do not have to surrender their licenses until they are sentenced. This step has been taken in an effort to fill the gap between guilty plea and sentencing. The new approach seeks to get the right dispositions in identifying the real problems these drunken and drugged drivers face. The sooner the problem is identified, the quicker the intervention can be.

Public safety is the first goal of the new DUI court. Under the new system, offenders who pose a danger to the public can be addressed quickly as early intervention would minimize any dangers of them re-offending.

With a team of prosecutors handling only DUI cases, it becomes easier for prosecutors to know if a defendant has multiple DUI cases so they can take immediate action. The new system allows the court to track the defendants so they can intervene and provide appropriate treatment at the right time before they could become a risk to public safety.

Moreover, the team approach under the new system lends consistency. With all DUI cases going to one judge, cases with similar facts can be dealt the same way.

Under the new system, court will focus on the law. The county’s DUI court will be better able to track offenders and get them to court faster. Offenders will be kept off the roads, leading to a reduction in the number of repeat offenses.

The court also has a treatment aspect whereby prosecutors address high-risk offenders with multiple cases. Repeat offenders are given incentives so they are able to complete the treatment successfully. These incentives may include early parole.

5-time offender, Nicholas M. Chaban, 54, was identified using the new system and it was clear he needed help. He had to be taken off the roads and needed treatment for substance abuse issues. His case is a classic example of repeat offenders that DUI Court targets for intervention. Using the new system, all five of Chaban’s cases went before the judge on February 6 where he pleaded guilty to four DUI charges and a drug possession charge.

Under the existing law, all of Chaban’s DUIs were being considered a first-offense for sentencing purposes, which had lesser penalties. However, Richman explained that with the new law, repeat offenses are identified which have higher penalties and stricter consequences. Chaban’s total sentence was increased and an additional requirement was put in place that prevented him from being paroled immediately. Meanwhile Chaban remained at the county jail as details of his admission to rehab were being finalized.

According to defense lawyers, treatment is important for repeat DUI offenders, but a number of options should be available for those who are in need of treatment. The presence of repeat offenses is clear that the offender needs help. If they are not given the help they need, the will end up returning to court again, facing increased jail time.

Ferman also said that more research needs to be done to make the entire process more effective. They have to look at other places across the country to see what is more effective so they can keep drunk drivers off the roadways and make the public safe.

News Source: www.PottsMerc.com