Second chances for drunk drivers, but not victims

by Jen Lynds

Earlier this week, I wrote an article about the trial and sentencing of Andrew L. Allen, 46, of Silver Ridge, who was convicted for the fourth time for criminal operating under the influence and also for unlawful possession of scheduled drugs.

State police Sgt. Chad Fuller noticed during a traffic stop in February that Allen’s speech was slow and slurred and his eyes were glassy and red and he failed a number of field sobriety tests. While searching his car, State Troopers Jacob Ferland and Jillian Monahan found a clonazepam pill, which is a sedative, in the armrest of the driver’s side door.

Fuller, who spent four years as a special agent with the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, administered even more tests, which Allen either could not perform correctly or performed in a manner that indicated that he was impaired by drugs. The sergeant arrested him, and at the Aroostook County Jail in Houlton, two more clonazepam pills were found in Allen’s pockets.

He was convicted by a jury and sentenced to 364 days in jail with all but 60 days suspended, followed by one year of probation, a $700 fine, and a three-year license suspension.

That should have been the end of the story.

But it wasn’t.

The night after the story appeared, I got an email from someone close to Allen, who was very angry that the story appeared in the first place. The writer believed that the officers and the jury had gotten it wrong, and it had been a “slow news day,” which is why I had written the article.

The writer argued that the jury had found Allen guilty even though he blew a .00 on the breathalyzer. I assured the writer that anyone under the influence of drugs would do that. Allen was not drinking alcohol that night. he was using drugs. That was made clear to the jury at trial by Assistant District Attorney Kurt Kafferlin, who secured the conviction. The writer also argued that cops lie, and felt that the BDN chose to give more space to someone with a “horrible” driving record “over someone who was making meth in their home.”

The writer was right about that horrible driving record. In total, his criminal history includes five traffic infractions, 15 criminal convictions, including 12 misdemeanors and 3 felonies. Of his 15 criminal convictions, 9 of those were motor vehicle related.

My conversation with the writer ended when I told her sardonically that she was right. It was all my fault. Allen had no responsibility at all, and it seemed that his supporters were echoing the same sentiments.

Across the state, there are countless public and private counseling programs available for people suffering from drug and alcohol addiction, and there are hospitals and rehab facilities available to access treatment. But there is no substitute for personal responsibility or accountability.

It is something that one must develop on their own.

After a person garners his first conviction for OUI, shouldn’t he learn a lesson from that? If a person is caught a second time and remains in denial, does anyone step forward and make them face reality? After the fourth conviction, does one still believe that they should look outward and cast blame and not inward?

And if personal accountability is lacking, where do we as a community step in? Are we taking keys from people obviously too impaired to drive? Are we reporting people swerving on roadways? Are we refusing to turn a blind eye to such things just because it might make us unpopular with a few people but still save lives?

On Aug. 2, David Labonte, 56,  was traveling northbound in Biddeford when he crossed the centerline into oncoming traffic and struck Jamerico Elliott, 52, of Saco, who was on a bike, his 15-month-old son, Lavarice Elliott, who was on a seat behind him, and his wife, Melodie Brennan.

Jamerico Elliott died on Aug. 7. Brennan suffered a broken ankle. The child was seriously injured but has since been discharged from the hospital.

Labonte was arrested and charged with manslaughter and aggravated operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor. Due to his four previous convictions for operating under the influence, he was driving on a conditional license, meaning he was not allowed to have any alcohol in his system. He also was driving an uninsured vehicle. The self-employed painter was living with his parents.

Again, it seems that this man was given chance after chance, but he never learned his lesson until he allegedly killed a man just out enjoying a Maine summer day with his family. Did people know that he was drinking again? Did they know he was driving an uninsured vehicle? And where did he get it in the first place?

I think everyone wants to support their loved ones.  And I think that most people believe in giving second chances.

In 2012 there were 45 alcohol impaired driving fatalities on Maine’s highways, according to the state Department of Public Safety.

Forty-five.

How we would all love to give those people a second chance…..