Police made two arrests in recent days of people they say were driving drunk with children as passengers, and in both cases there could be multiple felony charges.
A Scarsdale, N.Y., man was charged with three felony counts of aggravated drunken driving after being arrested last Thursday afternoon by East Hampton Town police.
Philip Porpora, 39, was said to have struck a sign on the eastbound side of Montauk Highway on Napeague with a 2007 Ford that was pulling a camper. In the car at the time were his three children, 6, 7, and 9 years old, police said. After his arrest, he allegedly refused to take a breath test at police headquarters.
In New York State, even a first offense driving-while-intoxicated charge is elevated to the level of an aggravated felony under Leandra’s Law, which increases penalties for drunken driving when children under 16 are in the car. The law also requires that the accused consent to a blood alcohol test. Blood was drawn by court order at about 4 p.m., three and a half hours after he was arrested. The blood is sent to the Suffolk County crime lab for testing; results may not be available for several weeks.
Besides the felony charges, Mr. Porpora is facing three misdemeanor charges of endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor charge of drunken driving, and three moving violations — driving with an open container of alcohol in the car, refusing to take a breath test, and leaving the scene of an accident.
Mr. Porpora sat on the prisoner’s bench before East Hampton Town Justice Lisa R. Rana entered the court for his arraignment on Saturday. The guarding officer asked him if he was all right. “We’re out on vacation. It’s been great so far,” he answered in a monotone voice. “Can’t wait to do it again next year.”
After she took the bench, Justice Rana asked Mr. Porpora whether he wanted to call a lawyer. “I think I can handle the arraignment process myself,” he answered. “For the record,” the justice said, “the court did call Legal Aid and were told they would not be able to send an attorney.”
“Are you working?” she asked. “Not after this,” he answered.
The justice told Mr. Porpora that his license was now suspended twice over, once for refusing the blood level test at police headquarters and again for having a prior alcohol-related conviction within the past five years. She said he had previously been convicted of driving with ability impaired by alcohol.
“Ma’am, may I ask you a question? Is it possible to give me a hardship license for work?”
“Absolutely not,” she answered. “The assistant district attorney has requested $25,000 bail be set. Are you able to make the bail?”
“I have to make a phone call. Can I ask for a reconsideration?”
“You can ask,” the justice said.
She began to read through the paperwork on the case and Mr. Porpora’s record. After about two minutes, the justice said, “Given the severe nature of the charges, you have no ties to the community, your previous record, bail is set in the amount of $51,000 cash.”
“I won’t be able to make that,” he said.
The justice asked where his three children lived.
“With my soon-to-be ex-wife,” he said. He was taken to the county jail in Riverside, where he remained as of Tuesday.
A Montauk woman, Elizabeth A. Forsberg, 40, was arraigned in East Hampton Town Justice Court Sunday morning on a Leandra’s charge after being arrested by State Police Saturday at 9:35 p.m. in downtown Montauk. She was said to have had four children in the car, aged 10 years old or younger.
Ms. Forsberg, who is a member of East Hampton High School’s science faculty, was stopped on Flamingo Avenue near North Farragut Road after allegedly running a stop sign. She refused the breath test, was taken to state police headquarters in Riverside, and had blood drawn by court order about three hours later. Again, results may not be available for several weeks.
Ms. Forsberg was represented for her arraignment in front of Justice Rana Sunday morning by Rita Bonicelli, who told the justice that her client was a lifetime resident of the area and had never had a previous arrest.
“This is a serious charge,” the justice said, adding “I think you are looking at additional charges once it goes to the D.A.” Ms. Forsberg is currently facing one Leandra’s Law charge, but could well be hit with three more, one for each child she allegedly had in the car, if she is indicted by a grand jury.
The justice set bail at $10,000, which was posted that afternoon.
There were two other arrests on drunken driving charges in the past week and a half.
Police arrested Julie A. Nolan, 21, of Miller Place on Saturday evening after the 2013 Toyota she was driving hit the side of another car entering the 7-Eleven parking lot on Montauk Highway in Montauk, police said. She failed roadside sobriety tests, according to the report. Taken to East Hampton Town police headquarters in Wainscott, she failed a breath test with a reading of .18 of 1 percent, high enough to raise the charge to misdemeanor aggravated drunken driving.
She was arraigned the next morning in front of Justice Rana, who asked her if she had called her parents yet. “No,” she answered. After she set bail at $500, Justice Rana asked if she was going to be able to post the amount.
“I know you dread the phone call,” the justice told the defendant. “I know it’s a phone call you don’t want to make. But, that ship has sailed.” A family member posted bail for Ms. Nolan at police headquarters later that day.
Town police arrested Jonathan Joseph Baldi, 37, in the early morning hours of May 13 on several misdemeanor charges, including reckless driving, drunken driving, and possession of a small amount of cocaine. The police said Mr. Baldi turned from West Lake Drive in Montauk onto Flamingo Avenue without signaling, then tried to evade an officer, maneuvering through the back streets, before crashibg into some bushes on West Lake Drive.
Mr. Baldi, who has a New London, Conn., address, told Justice Rana during his arraignment later that morning that he frequently works as a commercial fisherman out of Montauk. Police said he had a .13 blood-alcohol level reading at police headquarters. The justice pointed out that he has several previous minor drug-related convictions, and set bail at $750. When she asked him if he was going to be able to make bail, he answered that his captain was on the way.
Mr. Baldi was soon free, bail posted, with a future date to return to court.