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School bus driver pleads guilty to DUI charge while driving bus

One taboo to honor is no drunk driving while operating a school bus. One woman entered a plea of guilty in a New Jersey court on Oct. 28 to charges that she drove a school bus with 25 middle school children onboard while her blood alcohol level was .25 percent. That far exceeds the .08 percent legal threshold for drunkenness in New Jersey. She pleaded guilty to a DUI charge and to endangering the welfare of a child.

Under an agreement, she'll forego a DUI defense and serve three years in a New Jersey state prison. That's a substantial sentence considering that no one was hurt. However, she entered a guilty plea essentially to callously placing 25 children in grave endangerment of death or bodily injury for an extended time. The ample sentence may also reflect a prior DUI conviction or other record.

The described facts indicate she may have been drinking for hours before starting her shift. She started by pulling out before the bus had finished loading. She put students in an intensely fearful state by driving erratically and having several near-miss accidents. Children were so fearful that several of them got off the bus before their scheduled stop. Others called home expressing their acute anxiety.

Children reportedly said that she puked into her handbag in front of them. New Jersey authorities stopped her just as she was picking up another load of students. Possibly the most surprising aspect of the incident is that there was no tragic accident. Based on the grisly circumstances, loss of life was very close to being a reality.

In light of those factors, the defendant chose, with the assistance of New Jersey criminal defense counsel, to enter a guilty plea to the DUI charge and the endangerment. That act increases her chances for an early release, if any is later available. A major consideration may also likely have been that if defendant had gone to trial, a guilty verdict was a good possibility, and the sentence would have been much greater. Perhaps the defendant will benefit by her lessons, thank her lucky stars for no casualties, and work on rehabilitating herself in the coming months.

Source: South Jersey Local News, Mount Holly School bus driver guilty of DUI, No author, Nov. 7, 2013

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