Driver charged with failing to install DWI device

Manhattan resident Oscar Cabeza, who had previously been convicted of drunk driving, was arrested at 36th Avenue and 21st Street in Long Island City last year on a DWI charge when police allegedly discovered he did not install a blood alcohol content measuring device in his car. Photo by Rebecca Henely
By Rebecca Henely

A grand jury indicted a Manhattan man with a history of driving drunk Monday on charges of not installing an ignition interlock device in his car, which would have prevented him from operating it while allegedly intoxicated during a trip in Long Island City, the Queens district attorney’s office said.

This is the first time anyone in the city has been indicted under an August 2010 law requiring the use of an ignition interlock, the DA said.

Oscar Cabeza, 35, was also arraigned before Queens Supreme Court Justice Fernando L. Camacho on two counts of driving while under the influence of alcohol — also known as a DWI — aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, circumventing an interlocking device, unlawfully operating a motor vehicle on a public highway and unlawful possession of marijuana, the DA said. All charges originated from an incident in which Cabeza allegedly drove drunk near 21st Street and 36th Avenue in Long Island City on Sept. 29, 2010, the DA said.

“The public has long understood that drunk drivers do not simply cause ‘accidents’ — rather, they commit a crime each time they get behind the wheel after drinking, risking causing serious injury and even death to innocent victims,” Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said in a statement about the indictment.

The DA said police pulled over Cabeza, who was driving a 2004 black Suzuki, because his car matched one involved in an earlier incident. When Cabeza got out of the car, his eyes were bloodshot, he was unsteady on his feet and his breath smelled like alcohol, the DA said. After being asked for a valid driver’s license, he could not produce one, the DA said.

“I drank two hours ago at Club Perfection,” Cabeza told the police, according to the DA.

Cabeza then was given an intoxilyzer test for his breath and his blood alcohol content allegedly out as .083 limit, greater than the legal limit to drive in New York, which is .08, the DA said.

State Division of Criminal Justice records revealed Cabeza had been convicted June 1, 2009, in Manhattan for DWI, the DA. His license was suspended at the time of his arrest and had been suspended on Aug. 10, 2009, the DA said. A search through the state Department of Motor Vehicles records found Cabeza also had a restriction on his license that he must install an ignition interlock device, which requires the driver to breathe into it with a blood alcohol content level of .024 or less before the engine can start, the DA said. Police said they did not see one in the Suzuki, the DA said.

After police took Cabeza to the 112th Precinct, an officer checked under the back seat of his police vehicle where Cabeza had been sitting by himself and found a Ziploc bag of marijuana beneath the seat, the DA said.

If convicted of all charges, Cabeza faces up to four years in prison, the DA said. Cabeza was held on $5,000 bail, the DA said. His next court date is May 5, the DA said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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