2 drivers charged for DUI with kids in car

March 24, 2008 4:23:20 PM PDT
There are two disturbing cases of alleged drunk driving on eastern Long Island. In both cases, the driver had a suspended license and was arrested for driving while intoxicated. And in both cases, there were little kids in the back seat. Long Island reporter Lauren DeFranco has the story from Hampton Bays.

Police say two parents made the terrible decision to drink and drive, and they did so with their children sitting in the back seat. Both incidents happened on Montauk Highway within the matter of an hour.

"That's about as irresponsible as irresponsible gets," one driver said.

It's hard to believe that anyone would drink and drive with a child sitting in the back seat. But over the weekend, it happened twice in Hampton Bays. And in both cases, the driver had a previous conviction for DWI.

"Not only are you jeopardizing your own life, but when you have a child who is totally dependant on you, and you do that, it really is more than just a simple...crime," Southampton police Lieutenant Bruce Malloy said.

Twenty-three-year-old Paula Garcia had no comment Monday after she was charged with two felonies for allegedly driving under the influence with a 7-year-old in the back seat. What's even more disturbing is that Garcia's own brother was killed in a drunk driving accident.

The bumper sticker on the family's car reads, "I love sober drivers."

But the irony doesn't stop there. Garcia lives on Woodbine Drive, where Monsignor William Costello was mowed down by a drunk driver.

"We can't blame the system for our personal problems," neighbor Gerrard Picco said. "We've got to take responsibility. It's easy to blame the system. The government can't legislate morality or good behavior."

Police say the grim reality is that there are always repeat offenders when it comes to DUI, and enforcement is always a challenge.

"We're reactive," Malloy said. "The crime has already been committed by the time we discover them and take action."

Both drivers are charged with felony DUI and will face the maximum of four years behind bars.