Articles Posted in DUI

If you or someone close to you is charged with any alcohol-related driving violation it’s crucial to retain a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney who specializes in these types of occurrences at the earliest possible moment.

Accepting her fate at the Turner Gilford Knight Correctional Center late last month where she was being held on $80,000 bail, Jessica Araujo of Miami was formally arrested and charged with numerous alcohol related charges including DUI manslaughter.

Other charges that Araujo will now face are vehicular homicide, reckless driving, driving under the influence of alcohol; causing serious bodily injury, and possession of cocaine.

A Coral Gables man who worked as a physical therapy assistant was sentenced to twenty years in prison after a week-long trial when a jury found him guilty of all three charges against him. His blood alcohol level was more than triple the legal limit when his car crashed into a 2002 Chrysler Town and Country minivan killing a thirteen year old girl as well as injuring her father and sister.

According to police, Kaely Camacho, 13, was killed when Sandor Guillen’s 2010 Range Rover slammed into the minivan she occupied while he was speeding southbound at more than 80 miles per hour near the intersection of SW 184 St. and South Dixie Highway. His car was tearing down the bus lane (Busway), where the posted speed limit is 40 mph and is not open to typical vehicular traffic. The impact virtually carved the minivan in half. Kaely’s father: Kirk, 47, who was driving the minivan and sister: Bree Ann, 16, were also injured which non-life threatening injuries in the crash which occurred on April 13th, 2012. All family members were taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital where Kaely was pronounced dead at the Ryder Trauma Center a short after arrival.

A spokesperson for the Miami-Dade Police said “You can see from the damage of the actual mini-van, it’s missing the second half; the impact was very severe,” and went on to observe that in his opinion, the tragedy was unquestionably Guillen’s fault.

According to witnesses, upon impact, Guillen’s SUV ran into a tree, gyrated five times and finally came to a stop almost fifty yards away from the van. He made no attempt to alert 911 and then staggered away from the scene, discarding his identification in a thicket of underbrush. He was spotted by a Miami-Dade Police Officer that was informed to the accident in an adjacent area, apparently listening to music from his cellphone.

When questioned, his actions and responses seemed guarded according to the officer and told the investigator that he had been at a get-together with some friends where he had a few drinks just before getting into the wreck.

He was arrested shortly after being questioned by police and taken to a hospital to have his own injuries addressed. He was then booked and held pending trial after a judge set his bond at one million dollars. The arrest report specified that he reeked powerfully of alcohol and was acting intoxicated when the arrest took place. The charges against him were DUI manslaughter, vehicular homicide in addition to leaving the scene of an accident.

The ensuing investigation showed that Guillen’s DNA was a perfect match to the blood found on the airbag of the Range Rover that collided with the Camacho family’s vehicle leaving minimal doubt that he was the driver according to forensic experts.

He remained locked up until the amount of his bond was lowered to just over $200,000 which is still substantially higher than the $45,000 which is the norm for the type of charges Guillen would face.

At trial, Guillen asserted that he’d been “jumped” by nameless attackers as reason for him being covered with blood. But the prosecutor explained to the jury that the DNA evidence found on his vehicle’s airbag isolated Guillen as the only possible driver of the SUV; shooting down that claim.

After acknowledging that his client was in fact the driver his defense attorney claimed that Mr. Camacho was at fault because it was he who went through the red light at the intersection and asserted that the chief detective destroyed vital evidence in the course of his investigation. But both of those claims were dispelled by witnesses including the leading detective when called by the prosecution.

First, Hiram Hernandez, a traffic engineer for Miami-Dade testified that the sensors located on the Busway will not offer a bus or any other vehicle traveling on it a green light if it’s moving at a speed of more than fifteen miles per hour. He continued by saying that doing so would cause a fifty five-second delay before the light will turn green. “The reason was to force the bus drivers down before they get the green,” he said. He went on to say that the once collision-plagued Busway system was redesigned to diminish the incidence of accidents. Additionally, when the prosecutor asked him “are civilian vehicles allowed to use the Busway?” Hernandez replied “No they are not.”

When Detective Oscar Perez was put on the stand and responded to the defense attorney’s claim of him destroying important evidence at the scene of the accident he argued the allegation, admonishing the accusation by explaining that he merely transformed his original notes to that of a diagram format which was drawn to scale, to demonstrate a much more precise appearance than the rough sketches that were written by hand at the scene of the crash.

The detective’s believability appeared to be taken at its word by the jurors and the challenge to his testimony by the defense attorney only seemed to visibly annoy the assemblage.

But most importantly, Dr. Lisa Reidy, an expert in the field of Toxicologist affirmed that the defendant’s blood alcohol level was in excess of three times the legal limit at a staggering 0.26. The legal limit in most states including Florida is 0.08.

In early March of this year, after a scant three hours of deliberations, the jury found him guilty of all charges alleged. In early June he was sentenced to twenty years behind bars.

Upon delivering the sentence, Miami-Dade County Judge Ellen Sue Venzer admonished Guillen by declaring that “The fact is, Mr. Guillen, when you chose to get drunk that night and get behind the wheel of that car, you set off a chain of events that led us all here today.”

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“As a talented eighth-grader moving from Optimist League football to high school, DiIvory Edgecomb thought he could adjust quickly.” reported the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel in a December 2003 article that was publicized in their sports section.

And based on the Florida Atlantic University’s (FAU) official Website, he did just that. Edgecomb, now 27, still holds the FAU Owls single-season kick return record with 1,155 yards in the 2007 season as well as being the record holder for most returns in a single game with seven. He was also third in the category of most all-purpose yards in a single season with 1,761. He graduated FAU in 2009 but did not go on to play professional football.

He was hired by the Hollywood Police Department in November 2009 and a according to Union leader Jeff Marano “comes from a law enforcement family”. His LinkedIn social media profile lists him as “Entrepreneur, Realtor, Investor, Philanthropist, Enthusiast” He’s also listed as a licensed real estate sales associate with The Keyes Company in Hollywood.
But recently, the once aspiring golden boy’s good fortune seems to have dramatically changed course.

Late last month Edgecomb was arrested by officers from his own department for charges of Driving under the Influence (DUI). He was directly relieved of his duties and placed on paid administrative leave. He was further ordered to relinquish his squad car, badge, and department-issued firearm, according to Lieutenant Osvaldo Perez of the Hollywood Police Department.

The incident took place a short time after 1:30 a.m., on Sept. 30 as Edgecomb was driving his grey Toyota in the northbound lane of North 22nd Avenue in Hollywood. He was travelling in a southerly direction when his car struck another vehicle.

Shantrice Shipman, the driver of the vehicle that was hit told police that a car was coming toward her in the wrong lane. She said that she turned sharply to the left in an effort to avoid a collision. But as she swerved her car away from the other vehicle it crashed into her car, hitting it on the passenger side. After the impact, the driver of the Toyota continued driving south, apparently without making an attempt to stop at all.

Edgecomb’s damaged vehicle was detected by Hollywood police about a half a mile from the crash, not moving, on the side of the road. The right front side of the car was noticeably dented and one of the tires was flat.

The officer that interviewed Edgecomb at the scene noted that his eyes were bloodshot and his breath smelled from alcohol, He also wrote in his report that the subject’s speech was slurred.

Edgecomb refused to take part in a roadside sobriety test. He also told police that he had nothing to say until he was able to contact his attorney. He was arrested at 3:40 a.m. and driven to be processed at the Broward Sheriff’s Office Detention Facility which is located at Hollywood Police Headquarters. After posting a bond of $1,500.00 he was released just after 2:00pm that same afternoon. His attorney could not be reached for comment on behalf of his client. Union leader Jeff Marano termed Edgecomb a “good, solid” cop, however the beleaguered officer declined to comment through his Union leader as well.

“He’s a sweetheart,” Marano said and went on to say that he “comes from a law enforcement family. Always has a smile on his face. He’s a great kid.”

However, the Hollywood Police Department will have to deal with the fact that one of their own is facing charges for DUI after being arrested by a fellow officer.
Currently, his case is pending.

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“He showed contempt for the entire legal process. Mr. Bertonatti thinks he is above the law. He will do whatever it takes to protect himself.” That’s what the Assistant State Attorney told the Court. He directed his comments to Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Bronwyn Miller.

But Carlos Bertonatti’s friends and family members only had accolades for the up and coming pop singer, in the Court hearing that would seal his fate. He was characterized by several friends “a compassionate person who deserved mercy because he was truly sorry for a DUI accident that took the life of a bicycle rider on the Rickenbacker Causeway,” according to cbslocal.com.

Bertonatti, a handsome aspiring young singer seemed to have everything going for him. His music can be described as a soft, easy-listing, jazzy genre and his songs can still be heard on his MySpace Page.

It appears that Carlos Bertonatti partied all night, his fateful last stop at Club Space located at NE 11th Street in downtown Miami. When he finally left at 8:00 in the morning back in January, 2010, it seems he had “one for the road” buying a Red Bull with Vodka before finally leaving the popular dance club and beginning his drive home in his 2007 Volkswagen Jetta.

According to their own proud assertion; in reference to apparently always being able to get a cocktail, which is in plain view on the “About Us” page of their Website, they write “Club Space offers a “no-nonsense approach towards the customers, as well as the then-unheard of 24-hour operating permit
While on his way to his home in Key Biscayne, the Jetta struck and killed Christophe LeCanne on Miami’s Rickenbacker Causeway. LeCanne was in the bike lane, riding across the thoroughfare when Bertonatti’s car collided with the cyclist where he died at the scene. Bertonatti didn’t stop, and continued driving for nearly three miles before police stopped him and found LeCanne’s mangled bike lodged under his car. When accused of the tragedy, Bertonatti purportedly contended that the cops who stopped and pulled him over were joking. He then had to be forcibly restrained so a blood alcohol test could be performed, which determined that jis blood alcohol level was well in excess of the State’s legal limit.

LeCanne died of his injuries on the part of the causeway known as the Bear Cut Bridge. Witnesses told investigators that Bertonatti was driving his Jetta at close to seventy miles per hour in a zone designated at 45 miles per hour, according to the Miami New Times.

Without a plea deal in place, Bertonatti pleaded guilty to all charges with the exception of leaving the scene of an accident. He did so knowing he could face up to a maximum of thirty-seven years of incarceration. Florida State guidelines for the crime necessitate a sentence of a minimum of a little more than eleven and one half years to a maximum of thirty-seven years for a conviction.

At his sentencing hearing, one character witness after another spoke freely of the good deeds Bertonatti played in their lives.

One friend, Adrian Pena, spoke of when in April 2001 Bertonatti saved his life. He spoke of an incident when Bertonatti came to his assistance after he was attacked in front of a Coral Gables hotel. Pena said the attack took place after a fight between his ex-girlfriend and another man that was her current boyfriend at the time. “My throat was sliced ear to ear and Carlos applied a tourniquet and pressed it to my neck… He saw the condition I was in”. At that point Bertonatti’s defense attorney interjected by asking the witness “Is there any doubt that he saved your life?” Pena’s immediate reply was “There is no doubt in my mind.”

A distant cousin, Patricia Rodriguez, testified that “He’s amazing to everyone who meets him and he touches their heart. He is a good person. And he is loyal.”

In what might have been the most compelling sympathetic testimony, Bertonatti’s sister Daniela, now 25 testified that her brother was constantly at her side during three months of her rehabilitation after a failed attempt of committing suicide when she was only 14 years old. She passionately spoke, by stating that the incident took place after she was out that night drinking heavily. She ultimately hurdled herself from her parent’s balcony which was on the 9th floor of their apartment building.

Close to tears, she continued by saying, “I was shattered inside and I was dying,” She went on to add that she suffered a broken pelvis along with her ankles being crushed.

“He told me to be strong and hold on… He told me not to let go and I did not let go. My brother stayed with me. I find him to be one of the most amazing persons.”

Carlos has been living under house arrest in Key Biscayne since his family put up 10 percent of a $500,000 bond. “I think it’s been enough. Every moment he is in there and every day he is in there he’s come to terms with what has happened,” his sister said. “He feels so terribly guilty about what has happened.” She went on to say that her brother felt a “lifelong responsibility” to helping LeCanne’s widow, Sandra.

Bertonatti broke down on several occasions during his sister’s testimony
The convicted man’s music producer and close friend Chris Rodriguez continued the tribute to Bertonatti by testifying that, “There’s a magical thing about Carlos. He is talented and a great person. He has a charisma that is very rare. He’s one of those guys whose heart is always open. He will always do the right thing… This accident was so bizarre and out of character… I love him. He is part of the family.” Concluding his emotional statement, Rodriguez also broke down on the witness stand, shedding tears.

One of the most damaging illustrations that the prosecution submitted to the Court was Bertonatti’s previous driving record. It exhibited the he had already been charged with 46 hazardous infractions. Among them were speeding, running stop signs, and flying through toll booths without making payments. His license was suspended in 2009 and he was later stopped for driving without valid insurance and operating a motor vehicle without a license, according to the New Times.

In a stunning twist at his original sentencing hearing, Bertonatti’s Brother Miguel told prosecutors that he had stolen his Brother’s identity and it was actually Miguel who was responsible for a substantial amount of the driving offenses as offered by the prosecution. Bertonatti’s attorney’s stated that if those facts were indeed true the Court should be more lenient when the sentence was handed down. With that issue raised, Judge Miller postponed the hearing citing that before his testimony would be allowed, the Brother would need to be assessed by a psychologist.

But the following day, when the sentencing hearing was resumed, Miguel Bertonatti pleaded the fifth under the advice of his newly selected Court appointed attorney. The lawyer also stated that Miguel suffered from “mental health issues.”

But in spite of the emotional demonstrations by friends and family, in finality, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Bronwyn Miller sentence Bertonatti to twelve years in prison.

Judge Miller justified her decision by saying “The decisions made by Carlos Bertonatti on that date cruelly and irreparably destroyed life as it was known to the entire LeCanne family. Mr. Bertonatti’s actions extinguished the life of a loving husband, father and an outstanding human being.”

Despite all the positive testimony on Bertonatti’s behalf, a man was killed due to his negligence while driving a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol.

Reports say that the immediate LeCanne family is pleased with the ruling. “The state of Florida is very thankful for the judge’s very thoughtful and just sentence,” the Prosecutor said after the hearing concluded. “The LeCanne family obviously is touched, they’ve been waiting three years for this,” he said. He mentioned that he would be calling other LeCanne family members who live in France later in the day to let them know the final outcome.

In a separate civil action resulting from the death, Sandra LeCanne the widow of Christophe LeCanne has contended that the “since convicted” Bertonatti supposedly spent hours at Club Space drinking before the accident occurred. She argued that the Club should be held liable for her husband’s death as well. This type of suit will test a Florida law that questions whether clubs and bars should be held responsible for damages that are caused by customers that are known to be inebriated, when leaving their premises. According to talkingnightlife.com, an online magazine specializing with popular night clubs in the Miami area “Bertonatti’s alcoholism was ‘well known to many of the staff employed by Club Space,’ the suit claims, and yet on the night of the accident, the club allegedly made no effort to slow his drinking.” Mrs. LeCanne has not specified what damages she will be seeking from the club.

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Gerald “Jerry” Hill is a Democratic member of the Senate who represents the 13th district for California. Throughout a career encompassing over 20 years as a public servant he was on the San Mateo City Council, serving one term as Mayor, as well as the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors. During his tenancy in the state legislature, Hill’s emphasis has been concentrated on job creation, consumer protection, saving taxpayer monies, the improvement of environmental issues and public health, accompanied by facilitating schools to produce the workforce of the future.

Hill will now introduce new legislation that will necessitate any individuals who are convicted of a second drunken driving offense to put a new blood alcohol level testing device into their vehicles. Hill, a long-time advocate against drinking and driving introduced the bill which would rigorously crack down on repeat DUI offenders. According to Hill’s office, presently, at least 24 states call for ignition interlock devices for individuals who repeat an offense of driving under the influence (DUI). 17 states already do so for first-time offenders that have been convicted of the crime. An ignition interlock device is an apparatus that when attached to a car’s ignition necessitates a breath sample in advance of the engine being able to start. The device stops the car’s engine from starting if it detects a blood alcohol level that exceeds a pre-set limit. In the event of a third DUI conviction the penalty would be the mandatory use of the device for two years; and a fourth DUI conviction would incur the same penalty but for a period of three years. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) suggested that each state institute these devices for persons convicted of DUI.

In a phone interview in December, Hill said that “The law is so in favor of repeat DUI (driving under the influence) offenders.”

As an assemblyman, in 2010, Hill composed DUI law AB 1601, which was previously signed by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger before being further amended after his departure. The new law certifies that judges in California have the capacity to revoke driver’s licenses for repeat DUI offenders for a period of up to 10 years. The new law went into effect on January 1, 2012.

In California there were 161,074 DUI convictions in 2009, the most recent year in which statewide data is accessible. 27 percent, or 43,432, of those convictions were for repeat offenders According to Hill’s office. Based on further research there were 195,879 arrests in 2011. In 2012, almost 280,000 devices were fitted and are now operating in the United States, including approximately 24,000 in California, based on statistics provided by Hill’s office.

As quoted by Hill, “This (new) bill is sort of a follow-up to that effort to do something about the staggering numbers, the 40,000 annually repeat DUI offenders,”
In addition, if the legislation passes, this bill would require repeat DUI offenders to complete a special ignition lock program in addition to completing the DUI prevention course required by present law.

Legislation requiring the ignition interlock, even after one DUI conviction and as well as for drivers who are only slightly found to test above the legal limit should be a big help in preventing accidents, according to The NTSB.
Related reading on : Law AB 1601: Click Here

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Luis Uriel Hernandez-Hernandez, 20, a native of Mexico is in custody after he allegedly seriously injured two people in a hit-and-run mishap last Saturday night, an arrest report said.

The report stated that Hernandez-Hernandez, who works in the construction industry was arrested on two counts of DUI; serious injury to another, leaving the scene of an accident, and various other charges. He is being held without bail at the Joseph V. Conte medium-security custody facility, awaiting trial in Pompano Beach.

According to jailbase.com it was only two weeks earlier that Hernandez-Hernandez was stopped by police and charged with going through a red light, driving with expired license tags, and operating a motor vehicle without a valid driver’s license.

In the crash, Hernandez-Hernandez’s blood-alcohol level was more than double the .08 level at which a driver in the state of Florida, is recognized as legally impaired.

After the accident, Officer Cheryl Ramsaroop and her partner Officer Edward Grange noticed a gold 2003 Chevrolet SUV driving erratically on South. Dixie Highway. The vehicle according to the description of the vehicle given previously smashed into two other vehicles, and then left the scene located near the corner of Hallandale Beach Boulevard and Federal Highway.

After performing an “investigatory traffic stop” on the vehicle and questioning Hernandez-Hernandez the defendant told Officer Ramsaroop and her partner that he didn’t understand English when he was asked to submit to a sobriety test. A third officer was then called to the scene who spoke Spanish. When he requested to conduct the sobriety test, in Spanish, Hernandez-Hernandez still said that he didn’t understand the instructions. He allegedly smelled of alcohol and was unstable on his feet according to the report
As he was again given the instructions of how to proceed with the test in Spanish, he was said to have voiced, “I don’t know,” and, “I’m drunk,” several times in both Spanish and English,” the report said.

Hernandez-Hernandez, who did not have a valid driver’s license as well as proof of insurance, was then arrested. The report also mentioned that “he was unable to sign traffic citations due to his intoxicated state”.

Police also said that two semi-filled beer cans were found that were still cool to the touch in the back seat of the SUV. Grange also wrote in his report dealing with the arrest that when he asked Hernandez-Hernandez how many alcoholic beverages he had consumed that night, his reply was “10 Coronas,”
“As a result of the accident, two individuals suffered serious injuries and had to be transported to the hospital,” the police report said. The hospital that the injured individuals were taken to was not indicated by police. The injured were identified by police as Rona Wexler and Cheila Grinberg. No other details about them were given in the report, and their conditions were unavailable as of Tuesday.

When appearing in Court before Broward Judge John “Jay” Hurley, the Judge said: “Sir, the court believes you represent a danger to the community. The court notes that you have previously allegedly committed the same crimes – at least to the extent that you were in a crash and didn’t have a driver’s license.”

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