May 30, 2012
Assemblyman Nelson Albano
1124 North High St.
Millville, NJ 08332
Via fax (609) 465-4578
RE: INADEQUATE DRUNK DRIVING LAWS IN NEW JERSEY
Dear Assemblyman Albano:
We are writing to urge you to join the efforts of New Jersey residents in addressing the inadequacy of our drunk driving laws. We believe that the two high profile drunk driving cases of Sotomayer and Mauro in Cumberland County this month only indicate a small portion of the problem. These cases, especially the Mauro case, demonstrate that current legislative reform proposals are not sufficient to address the full range of DUI problems. We hope that the media coverage related to these two new cases and the related public outrage may finally prompt a legislative solution to the problem.
The Sotomayer case in Vineland called attention to our laws that allow a repeat drunk driver to retain a license while awaiting trial. This has fueled an over-use a legal defense strategy that encourages parties to delay trial using every imaginable method. Sometimes trials are delayed for year. In the Mauro case, a confessed drunk driver who admits daily abuse of drugs and alcohol with 2 prior DUI convictions was allowed to keep his license while awaiting his third trial. Prosecutors delayed his trial for several years. When he was finally prosecuted, he successfully argued in New Jersey Superior Court (Case #33-11) that his constitutional rights to speedy trial had been violated. He was cleared of all 3rd time DUI-related charges and retains his driving license despite his confession and admission of an ongoing substance abuse problem.
We are personally enraged because Mauro was the man who was charged by a grand jury for the 2006 hit-and-run assault by vehicle that robbed our family of a normal life for the past five and a half years. Yet he never faced prosecution on any charge. Tony just recently returned to professional work after many years of physical and vocational rehabilitation and the slow rebuilding of my professional skills. It will be many more years before we recover financially from the impact of this drunk driving offense. Yet we know that people across the state who are strangers to the case are equally enraged. Since the May 18, 2012 court verdict dismissing Mauro of all charges many friends and neighbors have come to me to ask what can be done to make our roads safe. As you are aware, police and prosecutors say they are bound by current law which prevents them from taking stronger action. Clearly the problem lies in the state’s criminal procedures and so we come to you to ask for a solution.
We strongly urge you to support legislative reform that:
- Immediately temporarily suspends the driving license of those arrested for a third time for DUI
- Removes bail opportunities for repeat DUI offenders when they drive with a suspended license
- Prohibits prosecutors and defendants from delaying drunk driving trials for an unreasonable time that may result in defendant’s reliance on a defense of the state’s violation of the constitutional right to a speedy trial
- Prohibits prosecutors from offering lenient “first time offender” pretrial intervention programs for those:
– With previous substance abuse or DUI convictions
– admission of ongoing substance abuse problems
– who have caused a serious bodily injury or death due to a DUI-related crime
- Prohibits judges from dismissing charges against DUI offenders who have failed to pass a court-ordered sobriety test as a condition of probation.
We hope and expect that you will hear from other New Jersey residents equally concerned about this problem. Tony has pledged his support to the newly formed NJ Citizens Against Drunk Driving, MADD and other groups that may wish to address this problem on an organized bass. Please let us know if we may provide your office with any further information that may support reform of New Jersey’s drunk driving laws.
Tony and Lori Novak
P.O. Box 333
Newport NJ 08345
Annotated court filing provided by the Cumberland County Office of Victim-Witness Advocacy http://sdrv.ms/KQURB4