A little over a week ago a New Jersey driver was convicted in an Ocean County courtroom of drunken driving and vehicular manslaughter in a fatal 2010 DWI-related traffic accident that left an Ocean Gate police officer dead. According to news reports, the jury deliberated less than one hour before rendering a guilty verdict in the case of Erick Uzcategui, whose vehicle struck an SUV driven by off-duty police officer, Jason Marles. As a result of the jury’s decision, the 34-year-old Manchester, NJ, resident faces a prison term of between five and 10 years.
The crash that led to the arrest and eventual conviction of the driver, reportedly took place on Thanksgiving back in 2010. At the time, according to court records, the defendant was operating his BMW sport utility vehicle along a section of the Garden State Parkway when he apparently lost control of the vehicle and slammed into the back of Officer Marles’ Jeep Grand Cherokee. The force of the impact cause the policeman’s vehicle to spin and subsequently crash through a nearby guardrail, after which the vehicle rolled and caught fire.
Based on news articles, the police believed the driver of the BMW to have been impaired due to alcohol consumption and possibly drug use involving cocaine and a steroid known as Oxandrolone. As New Jersey DWI defense attorneys, we noted that the outcome of this case came after a rather extended period of time. Almost four years after the initial incident, many people were likely frustrated by the slow pace of the case; with blame settling squarely on the defendant’s lawyers for an unhurried approach to defending their client.
Mr. Uzcategui, who worked at a local car dealership as a finance manager, was facing some serious charges — drunk driving and drug DUI. As a result, news reports suggest that the man’s defense team attempted to cast doubt on the prosecution’s case against their client. One of the arguments used by the defendant’s attorneys included the suggestion that the blood draw kit used to obtain a sample of Mr. Uzcategui’s blood was past its expiration date at the time it had been used.
Pointing to the apparent fact that nobody could truly say whether the kit passed its expiration date, the defense argued that the blood-alcohol content (BAC) measurement — which showed that the man’s BAC was nearly twice the legal limit — should not be relied upon as evidence to be used to convict the defendant. It would seem that this approach was not convincing to the court.
Testimony provided during the trial showed that the BAC measurement following the early morning blood draw was 0.155 percent (nearly twice the legal limit here in New Jersey). An expert witness for the prosecution stated that the defendant’s BAC was likely even higher at the time of the crash, perhaps as much as 0.185 percent.
Yet, despite the defense having called the BAC evidence into question, the prosecution argued that Mr. Uzcategui more or less “convicted himself” by telling the police following the crash that he had consumed “four or five drinks” as well as snorted some cocaine prior to getting into his vehicle. In the end, the defendant in this case was found guilty of DWI in the fatal traffic death of Officer Marles. Even so, there are other charges pending against the man, including a criminal charge of CDS (controlled dangerous substance) possession. Following the verdict, the court reportedly revoked the defendant’s bail and ordered him to be held in the Ocean County Jail while awaiting his sentencing date.
Driver convicted in DWI crash that killed NJ officer, TheDailyJournal.com, July 11, 2014