Agencies warn about drunken driving

Officers, prosecutors, judges stress safety, consequences for teens in prom season

May 18, 2008|By Madison Park | Madison Park,Sun Reporter

With prom and graduation season under way, Harford County law enforcement officials are trying to get the word out about the dangers of drunken driving.

During high school assemblies, teenagers are being urged not to drink and drive and motorists are getting visual reminders about the consequences of driving while impaired.

Outside the Maryland State Police barracks in Bel Air, a totaled black sedan bears a sign telling motorists to avoid drunken driving, a prom season reminder. The damaged car was not driven by a teenage driver, but was involved in a car accident.

Lt. Douglas Zeller, of the Maryland State Police in Bel Air, said the car was placed outside to "send a message to be safe."

"It catches the public eye," Zeller said. "Most people say, 'That'll never be me.' But it makes them think. It's a time for potential for alcohol or drug use, since everyone's celebrating their graduation and prom is a kickoff to that event."

In other efforts to bring awareness to drunken driving during this time of year, Circuit Court Judge Stephen M. Waldron puts on a mock trial at high school assemblies.

At Fallston High School, the judge and some of the local attorneys held a mini-courtroom in the auditorium.

The premise is that a promising senior at the high school who has been accepted to the University of Maryland is pulled over for driving drunk on her prom night. The student tells the judge that she didn't feel so drunk when she got behind the wheel and apologizes for her conduct.

She laments the expenses of hiring an attorney, paying higher insurance rates and the fines for driving under the influence. The judge fines the student $250, places her on three years of supervised probation, sentences her to 40 hours of community service and requires her to attend a victim-impact program in which offenders are confronted by victims of alcohol-related driving.

"There are real people who've been killed senselessly by a drunk driver," Waldron told the audience. For more than two decades, the assembly has sought to show the legal implications of driving drunk.

In a brief ceremony Wednesday, police officers who have made the most arrests of those driving under the influence were recognized with certificates and a pin.

Harford County State's Attorney, Joseph I. Cassilly thanked officers from the Maryland State Police, Maryland Transportation Authority Police, Harford County Sheriff's Office and the three city police departments. Family and friends packed into a courtroom as each officer's name was called to receive the 2007 Top DUI Appreciation Award, which has been presented for 18 years.

Cassilly said the officers' efforts are often taken for granted. County Councilman Jim McMahan, who represents Bel Air, shook hands with the officers saying, "I know what you did saved a life somewhere and somehow."

A Harford County mother, Debbie Hardy, who lost her 13-year-old daughter in a drunken driving accident four years ago, called the officers heroes.

Reading a statement, she said "For every loved one who made it home safe, it's because a hero did their job."

The following officers were recognized for their DUI arrests:

*Maryland State Police -- Bel Air Barracks:

Trooper Anthony D. Dudek, 53 arrests; Trooper Tobias C. Joy, 37 arrests; TFC Justin M. Gross, 30 arrests; TFC Adam S. Argenbright, 29 arrests; TFC Joseph L. Wargo, 26 arrests; TFC Bradley D. Walls, 26 arrests.

*Maryland State Police -- JFK Highway:

Trooper Troy Robinson, 57 arrests; Trooper Brian Hirsch, 31 arrests; TFC Kenny Brown, 19 arrests; Trooper Ryan McNeely, 19 arrests; TFC Gordon Cottman, 16 arrests; TFC Timothy Leubecker, 15 arrests.

*Maryland Transportation Authority:

Officer Andre Fontz, 25 arrests; Cpl. Emory Williams, 5 arrests.

*Havre de Grace Police Department:

Patrolman 1st Class Brian Daniels, 17 arrests; Patrolman 1st Class Joe Coxon, 13 arrests; Officer Jonathan Sova, 9 arrests; Patrolman 1st Class Shawn Gough, 7 arrests; Officer Brandon Stec, 5 arrests.

*Aberdeen Police Department:

Jeanette Giganti, 6 arrests; Michael Yeagy, 6 arrests; Larry Wade, 5 arrests.

*Bel Air Police Department:

Cpl. Robert Pfarr, 87 arrests; Officer Bradley Helm, Jr., 20 arrests; Officer Jonathan Kauffman, 8 arrests.

*Harford County Sheriff's Department:

DFC Christopher Sergent, 51 arrests; DFC Michael Stambaugh, 36 arrests; DFC Teresa Lally, 34 arrests; DFC Gerard Morgan II, 34 arrests; DFC John J. Miner, 22 arrests; DFC Christopher Aycock, 18 arrests; DFC Frederick Cirrani, special recognition.

madison.park@baltsun.com

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