Posted On: July 30, 2008

Putnam County Town Supervisor Pleads Guilty to DWI

In a follow up to our July 25 blog, Michael Rights, the Southeast Town Supervisor, pled guilty to driving while intoxicated this week in connection with his July 20th arrest in which he was charged with two DWI counts. Rights was sentenced to enter what is commonly referred to as the DDP or Drinking Driver Program, a seven week course required of all drivers convicted of a New York DWI, must pay a fine of $1,000, and his driver's license has been revoked for 6 months by Judge Spofford of Carmel Town Court.

There have been numerous calls by Putnam County residents for Mr. Rights to resign his office after his second drunk driving conviction in 13 months. However, he has stated publicly that he intends to stay on. Immediately after his guilty plea, Rights presided over a town board meeting in the same building.

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Posted On: July 25, 2008

Putnam County Official Has Second DWI Arrest In 13 Months

Putnam County Official Michael Rights, the Southeast Town Supervisor, was arrested at 3:00 AM this past Sunday on DWI charges when he failed to dim his bright lights and allegedly failed several Field Sobriety Tests at the scene. Rights was taken to police headquarters in Carmel and a chemical test apparently revealed that he had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of above 0.08, the legal limit for a New York drunk driving charge.

This is the second time in 13 months that Mr. Rights has been charged with drunk driving. In June, 2007, Mr. Rights crashed his 2005 Jaguar on Milltown Road in Southeast, was trapped in his overturned car, and at Westchester Medical Center, was found to have a BAC of 0.12. Amazingly, despite the charges, (Rights pled guilty to the reduced charge of Driving While Ability Impaired in December of 2007), he was elected Town Supervisor in November of 2007, after sending a mailer asking that voters forgive his actions.

Mr. Rights claims that because he is trying to "clean up" the towns of Brewster and Southeast, he is being targeted by local officials, and has questioned the circumstances of his arrest, including being stopped for the simple violation of failing to turn off his bright lights. He is due in Southeast Town Court on August 20 on two DWI charges. Rights faces up to one year in the County jail and a $1,000 fine if convicted of drunk driving.

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Posted On: July 14, 2008

Westchester County Close To Approving Social Host Bill

The Westchester County Board of Legislators appears ready to approve a Social Host Law by this fall. Under the proposed bill, Westchester would join other counties such as Nassau and Suffolk in imposing criminal penalties on adults who allow those under under the age of 21 to drink alcohol on their property. This new alcohol law would impose fines from $250 to $1,000 on adults who violate the law, with the only exception being that the bill does not apply to the adult's own children.

The supporters of the law, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) argue that the bill will close loopholes in state law which allow party hosts to avoid criminal prosecution by claiming they didn't know that minors were drinking alcohol on their property. Critics of the proposed law such as the New York Civil Liberties Union, (NYCLU) contend that the law is unnecessary because state law already prohibits serving alcohol to minors. Additionally, critics claim that the bill would encourage over aggressive police enforcement and violate privacy rights.

A final hearing on the bill is scheduled for August 11th, after which legislators are likely to vote on the law.

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Posted On: July 9, 2008

New York DWI Charges Against Three Wrong-Way Drivers

Over the last month, DWI charges have been filed against three motorists driving the wrong way on local highways. Most recently, on July 1, New York State troopers arrested a Mohegan Lake resident for driving south on the northbound lanes of the Taconic Parkway in New Castle. The driver, Nabil A. Zidan, allegedly had a BAC (blood alcohol content) of 0.17. On June 13, Kenneth Lyons of Rye was charged with aggravated DWI when he allegedly drove the wrong way on I-287 in Harrison and struck a tractor-trailer. On June 1, Kathleen Beaton of Eastchester was stopped for driving the wrong way on I-87 while going over the Tappan Zee Bridge, and charged with aggravated DWI based on a purported BAC of .20.

The legal threshold for DWI in New York is .08 or above. In November of 2007, the New York State Legislature passed a new law which created the charge of Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated, for which the threshold is .18 BAC or above.

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