When a person is convicted of drunk driving involving an accident, he or she will have to compensate all victims who sustained property damage from the collision. A former professional basketball star learned that lesson recently when a New York City trial court judge pointed out to the defendant's lawyer that the man still owes for the 20-foot tall honey locust tree that he pulverized. The tab that the drunk driver will have to pay for the tree is $16,643, according to the court's finding.
The defendant is 47-year-old Jayson Williams, a former player for the Nets who has been entangled in several questionable incidents in the past. Most notably, he served about 18 months in jail for accidentally shooting and killing his chauffeur. He was out on bail in that case when he went into the tree.
In the drunk driving case, Williams had a blood alcohol level of twice the legal limit. He slid into the passenger's seat of the Mercedes SUV just before the police arrived, and told them that the driver had run off. That story failed to convince anyone and he had to plead guilty, for which he served a year in jail.
The recent court hearing was called to assess the costs against the defendant drunk driver, including for the tree. He also has to pay $1,197 for the alcohol-monitoring anklet that he was compelled to wear. Thus, a conviction for drunk driving can be accompanied by steep fines and restitution orders.
In New York and all other states, sentences for drunk driving are steeper where the blood alcohol level is particularly high and where the defendant has a prior record for criminal activity. Furthermore, in this case, he was out on bail when he drove recklessly and destroyed the tree. All of the circumstances are taken into account by the court in fashioning a sentence. An experienced and seasoned drunk driving attorney, however, can use his or her expertise to often get the sentence reduced by accentuating the various mitigating circumstances that exist.
Source: New York Post, "Ex-Nets star owes city $17K for killing tree in DWI wreck", Rebecca Rosenberg View, Sept. 24, 2015