NJ man charged with DWI in death of skater was below legal limit
HAMIlTON (Mercer) — A 34-year-old driver who struck and killed a teenage skateboarder may have had a blood-alcohol level reading below the legal limit but that didn't spare him from death by auto and DWI charges.
Mauricio Velastegui recorded a 0.07 BAC after the early Thursday crash on Nottingham Lane. That's just a sliver below the 0.08 limit, but under state law a driver doesn't have to be at or above the limit to be charged or found guilty of drunk driving.
Velastegui was driving about 12:40 a.m. when he crossed into oncoming traffic lane and struck the 13-year-old, who later died at the hospital.
Velastegui failed sobriety tests and later admitted to drinking two orange soda vodkas as well as a shot of vodka at a Dave Matthews Band concert at PNC Bank Arts Center, according to an affidavit of probable cause obtained by NJ.com. Velastegui also told police that he had been awake since 4:30 the previous morning.
Under the law, having a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent becomes proof of impairment. But the law allows convictions for impairment even if the driver was below that limit.
"Consuming even small amounts of alcohol dulls the senses, decreases reaction time, and hampers judgement, vision and alertness," according to informational literature published by the state. "If you consume any amount of alcohol and your driving is negatively impacted, you can be convicted of drunk driving."
BAC levels are used to determine the severity of penalties after a conviction. Fines are higher and license suspensions longer when BAC readings are above 0.10. BACs above 0.15 result in mandatory ignition interlock devices after a license is restored.
If convicted of death by auto, which is a second-degree crime, Velastegui could face at least five years in prison.
New Jersey 101.5 did not know Saturday whether Velastegui had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.
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Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.