Drunk Woman Crashes Car Carrying Six Children Soon After Somerset County DA Announces Faulty BAC Reports
Pennsylvania State Police in Somerset County are pressing charges against a woman who allegedly crashed a vehicle containing six children — while under the influence. According to WeAreCentralPA.com, the accused is 31-year-old Stephanie Vandoren, whose car hit an embankment and flipped after Vandoren failed to negotiate a curve on State Route 30. The children in the car were between four months and 12 years of age.
Vandoren faces an array of charges, including child endangerment, reckless endangerment, and DUI.
This happened right after Somerset County District Attorney Lisa Lazzari-Strasiser reported that her office had not been performing a necessary mathematical conversion of blood tests from drivers accused of drunk driving in Somerset County.
According to Pittsburgh Action News 4, the hospital that performs the blood tests began testing just blood serum — not the whole blood — over four years ago. This means that the blood alcohol content, or BAC, has been overestimated by 15%, which is problematic because it is these blood tests that are used in court as evidence in attempts to convict the accused.
Aside from the emotional shame and legal consequences that people convicted of DUI face, undue convictions also have an effect on the wider community. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that auto accidents cost each American $900 per year, and drunk driving accounts for 19% of economic losses.
The DA told WeAreCentralPA that the hospital is in no way at fault, and that it was the prosecution’s responsibility to apply the conversion. This means that the cases between June 2010 and the present must be revisited — an effort that Lazzari-Strasiser is taking on herself. She excludes cases in which the BAC of the accused was not high enough to charge them to begin with, drivers whose BAC was more than twice the legal limit, those who were Tier Three offenders, those who used drugs, and those who were underage.
Defense attorney Steve Miller told WeAreCentralPA he anticipates that no more than two percent of cases will have to dismissed or retried. “I believe the perception of this problem will be significantly greater than the actual problem,” Miller added.