On November 7, the tragic story of the death of Toni Donato-Bolis came to a close when Daniel Pereira plead guilty to reckless driving and causing the accident that led to her death. After the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office had declined to bring an indictment for charges, the case was remanded back to the Washington Township, New Jersey, Municipal Court for further handling.
As a result of the plea, Pereira was fined $257, lost his license for one year, and required to attend three anti-distracted driving presentations given at local schools by Ms. Donato-Bolis' sister, Angela. If he fails to comply with the last provision, he will face 15 days in jail.
The plea to reckless driving arose out of a claim of distracted driving, although Pereira has never admitted to texting at the time of the accident. This is not the first time tragedy has struck this community because of distracted driving: there is the case of Nikki Kellenyi, a teen who was killed in a car crash on April 14 of this year.
Tougher Laws in Place for Future Violations
Some good has come out of these tragedies, with the reform of New Jersey's distracted driving laws. On July 18 of this year, Kulesh, Kubert and Bolis’ Law was enacted, which states that proof that a person was operating a cell phone while driving may give rise to a presumption that he or she was driving recklessly. Prosecutors are also empowered to charge the driver with either vehicular homicide or assault by auto when an accident is caused by the reckless driving.
In a story reported on November 9 in the Washington Township Times, the family of Toni Donato-Bolis has stated that they will be lobbying for a law that would mandate that drivers be drug tested after serious accidents.
Should There Be Mandatory Drug Tests After Serious Accidents?
This brings up some interesting Constitutional issues, however. The police are empowered to take blood samples from a driver, by reasonable force if necessary, in order to test for drugs and/or alcohol. However, in order to do that, they must have probable cause under the Fourth Amendment. With this in mind, lawmakers must be very careful in the drafting of such a statute to make sure that the "mandating" of the testing is triggered by the showing of probable cause.
In addition, the argument could also be made that laws currently on the books address this issue. If police, in investigating an accident, gather evidence of impairment of a driver that would render a finding of probable cause, a blood sample can be taken, and a prosecution for DUI (which can include both drugs and alcohol) could be brought. It will be interesting to see how this story progresses.
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