Monthly Archives: December 2019

Boy on Top of Santa’s Nice List after Calling 9-1-1 on DUI School Bus Driver

Santa had better put 10-year-old Troy Luna at the top of the Nice List this Christmas season.

Luna, of Diablo Grande, a neighborhood in Stanislaus County, California, called 9-1-1 earlier this week to report his bus driver’s driving. Luna was one of between 40 and 50 students ranging from kindergarten to 5th grade who were passengers on the bus according to the CHP.

As Luna entered the bus, he smelled something odd coming from the bus driver, 51-year-old Karolyn Denise Ray. After Luna had noticed that Ray had missed a turn and driven onto the highway, he called 9-1-1.

“She stepped on the brakes really hard, and a few kids went flying and hit their heads on the seats,” Luna told KOVR-TV. “All my friends were trying to talk me out of it. I said, ‘I don’t care, I don’t feel right,’ so I just did it.” Luna said that other children on board were crying and panicking when he made the call to 9-1-1.

Lo and behold, when officers arrived, they discovered that Ray was under the influence of a controlled substance. Ray was arrested and subsequently charged with driving under the influence and child endangerment, according to KTXL. It will take a few weeks for testing to determine what substance or substances Ray was on when she was driving the bus.

“I think he is to be commended,” said Randy Fillpot, superintendent of the Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District. “I congratulated him yesterday morning at school; he absolutely did the right thing. When you suspect the safety of your peers is in jeopardy you do the right thing and in that case it was call 9-1-1.”

Law enforcement agreed.

“We are relieved that the children knew who to call in an emergency situation, so I consider this kid a hero,” said CHP Officer Thomas Olsen.

One wonders, “What does Santa bring a child who just saved, literally, a bus-load of other children, himself, and a soon-to-be-on-the-Naughty-List bus driver?”

Meanwhile, as I just mentioned, not only has Ray plummeted to the bottom of Santa’s Naughty List and looking at a stocking full of coal, she’s also looking at a whole host of “unwanted gifts” thanks to her latest transgression.

In addition to the California DUI, which carries up to six months in jail and up to $1,000 in fines, she also looking at child endangerment charges.

Under California Vehicle Code section 23572, a first time DUI conviction where a minor under the age of 14 is in the car will bring an additional 48 hours in a county jail. A second time DUI conviction will bring an additional 10 days in jail. A third time will bring an additional 30 days in jail. A fourth will bring an additional 90 days. Furthermore, these penalties are to be served consecutively, not concurrently with the underlying DUI penalties that Ray will be facing.

Personal Breathalyzer: The Perfect Stocking Stuffer

It’s that time of year when we all scramble to find last minute stocking-stuffers, or perhaps we’re still looking for a gift for that person who already has everything. Look no further.

It goes without saying that, for all the good that the holiday season brings, the unfortunate reality is that it also brings with it the very real and dangerous potential for drunk driving. Every year, we warn of the dangers of drunk driving during the holiday season. We also warn of heightened law enforcement efforts to catch drunk drivers and suggest alternative methods home from work holiday parties and the like. While we have in the past talked about personal-use breathalyzers, it’s worth discussing them again, and even suggest them as the perfect gift this holiday season.

Breathalyzers are no longer accessible to law enforcement. Breathalyzers are so readily available nowadays that, in addition to the standard multiple-use breathalyzer, they have developed single-use disposable breathalyzers and breathalyzer apps for the smartphone.

As you can imagine, the range in the quality and price of personal breathalyzers is quite large. Costs will vary between $15 and several hundred dollars. Breathalyzers under $50, and those coming on key chains have questionable accuracy from the start and accuracy continues to decrease after multiple uses.

Unlike novelty breathalyzers, quality breathalyzers will be backed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means that the FDA conducts research to confirm that the breathalyzer does what its literature says it does.

Just because I believe that personal breathalyzers can prevent a DUI, it doesn’t mean that they are 100% accurate. Almost all quality breathalyzers, like those the police use, require calibration after repeated use to ensure accuracy. Some products allow for owners to calibrate themselves and some require that the breathalyzer be sent to the manufacturer for calibration. Heavily used and non-calibrated breathalyzers will likely not be accurate.

It is possible for a person’s blood alcohol content to continue to rise after a breathalyzer reading, especially if they’ve only recently stopped drinking. Therefore, it is also possible for a person to have a blood alcohol content of 0.07 when they leave the bar (and when they test themselves) and a 0.09 after they’ve been driving for a while. If that is the case, you can still be arrested and charged for a California DUI.

Lastly, a person does not necessarily need to be above a 0.08 blood alcohol content to be arrested and charged with a California DUI. A person can be arrested and charged with a California DUI if they are above a 0.08 percent blood alcohol content or if they are “under the influence.” In other words, you can be a 0.07 percent, but if an officer determines that you cannot safely operate a vehicle as a sober person could, you can still be arrested and charged with a California DUI.  A breathalyzer may determine if you are under the legal limit, but it cannot determine whether you are “under the influence.”

At a minimum, however, having a personal breathalyzer might help people bridge the gap between how a person perceives what their intoxication level is and what their blood alcohol content is. And while many breathalyzers might not provide an accurate reading, it might still prevent people from driving simply because they now know that they are close to the limit. And knowing a range is certainly better than knowing nothing and making a stupid guess. This Christmas why not give the stocking-stuffer that just might save the recipient’s life?

Habitual Drunk Driver Kills Wife in DUI Incident

Alcohol addiction was deadly for 53-year-old Robert Lee Ellis, of Columbus, Ohio, but not in the way you might think.

On October 16th of this year, Ellis was driving around a curve just outside of Columbus when he struck a utility pole. His 51-year-old passenger was pronounced dead at the scene. The passenger was his wife, Dawn Ellis. Neither were wearing seatbelts at the time of the collision.

Ellis’s blood alcohol content at the time was 0.185 percent. What’s more, officers learned that this was not Ellis’s first DUI incident. In fact, it was his 13th, and his driving suspension from a prior DUI was still in effect at the time.

“While investigating this fatal traffic crash it was very clear to investigators that Mr. Ellis is one of the worst habitual repeat offenders of drunk driving we have seen,” the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. “He has no regard for human life continuing to be an extreme danger to the motoring public due to his criminal behavior of operating vehicle while impaired. It is further evidence in this case in which he caused the death of his wife while having a blood alcohol of .185, which is more than double the legal limit.”

On Monday, Ellis was indicted by a grand jury for aggravated vehicular homicide as a first degree felony, aggravated vehicular homicide as a second degree felony, and two counts of operating a vehicle under the influence as a third degree felony.

“I’m so happy he’s behind bars so he cannot put anyone else’s family through what he’s put us through,” Dawn Ellis’s daughter, Bobbi Spencer told NBC Columbus affiliate WCMH. “But it’s still never gonna [sic] take the pain away that he’s caused all of us.”

There is no question that Ellis should not have been driving or that he caused the loss of a life for which he must now pay a price. But focusing anger on what Ellis did alone ignores another sad truth; Ellis suffered from alcoholism and the system failed him and his wife.

This issue, on a number of occasions, has been discussed by both myself and Lawrence Taylor, who said the following in a post from way back in 2013 that remains true now.

Albert Einstein once famously said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again…and expecting different results”.

The simple fact is that most DUI-caused deaths are caused by a relatively small group of “problem drinkers”. These individuals are typically characterized by recidivism (repeat offenses), unusually high blood-alcohol levels — and alcoholism. And alcoholics are simply not deterred by criminal sanctions, any more than drug addicts are. By now, most experts recognize that alcoholism is a disease, not a choice. And you don’t treat a disease with incarceration. If you throw an alcoholic in jail for six months, on the day he walks out he will likely go to the first bar he finds and resume drinking. What has been accomplished? 

We recognize incapacity due to disease for such crimes as murder: the plea/verdict is “not guilty by reason of insanity”. The defendant is not simply set free, but is hospitalized for treatment of the disease. Why not treatment for drunk drivers who suffer from the disease of alcoholism?

Would you prefer to have a chronic drunk driver off the roads for a few months — or treated for his addiction?