ASaint Petersburg theft crimes lawyer breaking story from BayNews9.  The suspect is innocent until proven guilty but if true, this is a horrendous crime.  People in a position of trust need to be held accountable for taking advantage of the elderly and others who can no longer defend themselves.

 

For the daughter of a patient at Access Adult Family Care Home on 38th avenue in Saint Petersburg, the news went from bad to worse.  She had just found out her elderly mother passed away at the home in late May.  Bedridden, she had spent her last few weeks in the home, never venturing out.  That was the story the daughter believed until she opened her mother’s credit card bill and noticed over 20 charges worth over $2,000 in May.  The credit card was used in restaurants, department stores and gas stations among other places- things that a bedridden woman would not spend money on.

Based on the charges, the daughter went to many of the locations, viewing security footage.  What she found broke her heart.  The videos showed Matos Infante, the owner of the facility, using the stolen credit card!  She reported this to the police who started their own investigation, eventually finding 10 other nursing home victims of either credit card fraud or identity theft.

Based on this investigation, 43-year-old Matos Infante was arrested and charged with 16 counts of fraudulent use of a credit card, eight counts of identity theft and multiple counts of operating an unlicensed assisted living facility (she had let her license lapse in 2013).  The police arrested her at the facility when they were serving a search warrant.

In addition the Florida Department of Health has joined the investigation to ensure the members of the facility were being taken care of.

 

LEGAL ANALYSIS

The charges will depend if and how they charge Ms. Infante.  Most of the theft and fraud she is accused of are felony charges.  They are most likely third degree felonies, with each count being punishable by up to five years in prison!  Additionally, if convicted she will never again be able to own or work at any type of assisted living facility again.

Have you or a loved one been arrested for grand theft or fraudulent use of a credit card?  Then call the Saint Petersburg criminal defense attorneys at Blake & Dorsten, P.A. today!  These former prosecutors are experienced trial lawyers.

Blake & Dorsten, P.A. handles all criminal and personal injury cases along the Gulf Coast including Saint Petersburg, Tampa, Clearwater, Seminole, Feathersound, Largo, Pinellas Park, St. Pete Beach, Safety Harbor, Oldsmar, Palm Harbor, Dade City and Brandon.

To speak directly with your Clearwater theft crimes defense lawyer, click on the contact button or call them at 727.286.6141.  Blake & Dorsten, P.A…when your case matters!

 

 

 

 

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In a previous blog, we had written about a Florida woman who was texting as she ran a red light, causing a fatal automobile accident. She was charged with DUI manslaughter as a result of her actions.

Coming on the heels of this, the Miami Herald had a long article about that case and comparing her prison sentence to other similar defendants. The results are surprising. Throughout Florida, while DUI laws are identical, the punishments are definitely not. The severity of the punishment varies by location, judge, gender, age and race among other things…

The defendant featured in a previous blog post, 20-year-old Kayla Mendoza tweeted “2 drunk 2 care” before killing two young women in a drunk-driving crash. She tearfully admitted guilt, but, faced with furious relatives of the deceased, a Broward judge slammed her with a 24-year prison term.

A few days later, a known alcoholic by the name of Antonio Lawrence, 57, faced a Miami-Dade judge for plowing into a restaurant while driving drunk, killing two church elders. Relatives of the deceased offered forgiveness. The defendant only got 10 years.

In a different courtroom in the same courthouse, on the same day, 27-year-old Edna Jean-Pierre took responsibility for killing one person in a DUI crash, then killing another in a hit-and-run crash — while out on bail in the first case! A separate Miami-Dade judge sentenced her to a relatively light four years in prison- a ruling that infuriated relatives of the victims.

The daughter of the second victim killed by Jean-Pierre, Sonya Estiven was livid. “I would have preferred 10 years. Eight years, I would have been a little mad,””But for her to have only got four years, I’m still shocked. I’m still upset. I’m still depressed. The judge sent a message that it’s OK to drink and drive.”

The Florida DUI manslaughter laws include a four-year mandatory minimum for a conviction. After that, judicial discretion comes into play and prison terms vary widely from cases to case based on the county, the victims relatives, prosecutors and other quirks.

The four-year minimum mandatory term is a newer addition to the law, added eight years ago in 2007 over concerns about judges being too soft on drunk drivers who kill. Known as the “Adam Arnold Act,” the law was named after a Key West teen who died in a crash in 1996, and where the driver got only three years of probation.

The newspaper studied over the prison records of 400 fatality cases resolved in Florida in the last three years. They found that since 2012 the statewide average sentence for DUI manslaughter is just under 10 years behind bars. Looking throughout Florida, Miami-Dade had the most cases in that time span, 66,but had among the lightest average sentences with convicts serving an average of just over 6 years in prison. Nearby Broward County had 27 cases with the defendant’s average sentence resulting in a prison time just under 10 years.

The farther north you go in Florida, often the harsher sentence one receives. Palm Beach convicts average 11.54 years in prison for DUI manslaughter, while those in Hillsborough County (Tampa) serve about 10.18 years.

As mentioned previously, there are multiple reasons for the disparity in sentences. Outcomes are swayed by a host of factors: the strength of evidence, the skill of defense attorneys, circumstances of a crash, a defendant’s criminal history, media glare and especially on the Gulf Coast, the desires of a victim’s loved ones.

“Victims drive to a good degree what the sentence outcome will be,” said a criminal defense attorney. “Victims who are not active, not engaged with the state attorney’s office, are going to see a lower number in the sentencing.”

This was certainly true in the above case of Jean-Pierre, who in 2009 drove drunk, killing a man outside of his car on the side of an interstate. The case dragged on for years — until in early 2014, while still on bail, she hit a pedestrian as she was walking along a dark street. The defendant, a nurse, left the scene and immediately took the car to get repaired at a body shop.

Both of Jean-Pierre’s cases had problematic evidence and were not assured convictions for the state at trial. While Florida sentencing guidelines called for for 12 years in prison, the Judge departed after hearing that Jean-Pierre was a mother of two and was a victim of domestic violence. She enraged the victim’s daughter when the defendant was sentenced to just four years in prison.

While the victim’s daughter penned a letter that was read out loud to the judge, no other family members were involved in the case and for some reason her crimes were not given heavy media coverage.
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Drunk drivers who kill rarely escape at least the mandatory four year’s prison time but prosecutors can waive the minimum four mandatory. For example, in a 2009 case pro football player Donte Stallworth received only 30 days in jail and a lengthy probation for killing a pedestrian in Miami Beach. The prosecutors claimed they offered the plea bargain because there was no guarantee of victory at trial. The victim was not in a crosswalk that dark morning when he was struck.

In that case, the decision to support the lighter sentence hinged on the victim’s relatives, who pushed for the deal after receiving a large settlement from Stallwort!.

In my opinion, the number one determination in the sentence you receive is victim’s families and their willingness to forgive. In Lawrence’s case above, he met with families of the two victims killed in the crash, became heavily involved helping recovering alcoholics and even surrendered to jail early before pleading guilty. The Miami-Dade Judge responded by giving him a relatively light sentence of 10 years, much less than the 34 years he faced had he been convicted at trial.

Oftentimes the emotional reaction of relatives also can clash, with some urging leniency while others called for heavy punishment.

For example, the family of a Coral Gables jogger killed by a drunk driver wanted a stiff sentence and got one — at first. The defendant who drove drunk and killed the victim back in 2008, got 12 years in prison during an emotionally charged sentencing hearing.

The defendant had pleaded guilty with no plea deal. But a judge later threw out the sentence after his lawyer admitted he botched the case. Soon after the state realized the case had problems. One vial used to collect the suspect’s blood was expired, and the deceased had stopped in the middle of the darkened road to adjust his iPod — giving the defense an avenue to shift the blame. The defendant ultimately winded up doing five years in prison-much to the anger of the deceased’s parents.

Closer to the Gulf Coast, two young women in well-known cases in the social-media age had drastically different outcomes.

A 20-year-old South Beach bartender, was drunk when she hit and killed a chef walking across the street, then fled the scene before her arrest. On facebook the defendant described herself as a “party princess” and posted multiple photos of her drinking and partying-some of which might have been taken after her arrest! Despite that, in 2013 she tearfully accepted — with the victim’s family approval — a plea deal that called for just four years in prison followed by house arrest and probation.

Two years later another young woman tweeted “2 drunk 2 care” before driving the wrong way on an expressway, plowing her car into another incoming car back in November 2013. Killed in the other car: best friends Marisa Catronio and Kaitlyn Nicole Ferrante, both 21.

The suspect had been drinking at a work party and had a blood-alcohol content level nearly twice the legal limit. She pleaded guilty with no plea deal. She thought she had helped herself by giving two depositions to help the victim’s civil lawsuit against the restaurant where the work party was held and T-Mobile store where the suspect worked. Yet at her sentencing in in a highly publicized hearing, relatives angrily asked the Broward Circuit Judge for the max of 30 years (15 years per count).

Despite her cooperation, her young age, her remorse and lack of any prior criminal history, the judge responded by giving her 24 years!

Her criminal defense lawyer was in shock .”My client was doing everything she could to handle this the right way, and she still got slammed,” he said.

Her attorney admitted the flippant tweet and heavy media coverage provided little incentive for the judge to reduce a sentence. That one text captured the imagination of the public and probably put pressure on the judge.
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A quick blurb from a BayNews9 article about a local crime that shocked the community. Three suspects are now in custody in a killing where there is more then meets the eye…

Bradenton police have arrested three suspects in last weeks double homicide that shocked the community. Security footage showed three masked men break into a private home and kill two homeowners. Five children between one and 11 years old were present and at least one kid was thought to have witnessed the shootings.

Police announced the arrests of Jimmie Mcnear, Terez Jones and Trey Nonombre as the three masked murder suspects. Two of the suspects are 18 and one is in his 30s.

As police discovered more evidence they speculated that the trio sought out 29-year-old Kantral Brooks and his girlfriend, Ester Deneus, happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

While at first glimpse this seemed to be a suburban nightmare and a random break in, authorities now believe the house was targeted as it served as a drug den and the murdered man had a large amount of drugs in the house.

During the investigation, police said narcotics were found in the home – specifically, 14 ounces of powder cocaine and “a couple of bags of rock cocaine.”

Making a bad scene even more tragic was that one of the suspects, 33-year-old Terez Jones,was released from the Manatee County jail on $18,000 bond three days before the homicides occurred.

He had been arrested three days earlier on charges of possession with intent to sell heroin and cocaine, tampering with evidence and attempted escape, according to jail records.

A Detective for the Bradenton police department was outraged. “I understand the justice system,” “… We put them in and they bond out, they do something again. That’s going to be a big topic. Should this guy be in jail? Yeah, he should still be in jail. And now he gets out and he’s able to commit a murder. It’s ridiculous.”

The 18-year-old suspects also had criminal histories, each had several convictions for burglary and controlled substance.

The two youngest suspects were caught in a series of early morning SWAT raids in four locations, part of a joint task force between the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and the Bradenton Police Department.

Police arrested Trey Nonnombre and Jimmie Lee Mcnear, both of Bradenton, and charged them with two counts of second-degree murder and one count of attempted home invasion.

At their first court appearance on Monday afternoon, a judge denied all of them bonds and called them both a danger to the community.
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A quick story in BayNews9 about a coordinated law enforcement “wolfpack” that took place the day before the holiday last Friday. The end result? 12 arrests for driving under the influence, several arrests for drug possession and a whopping 120 traffic citations!

Starting Friday, July third and ending Saturday morning, the latest “Wolfpack” was a coordinated effort between the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, Florida Highway Patrol, Saint Petersburg Police, Clearwater police and the Pinellas Park police department, among others.

With much of Pinellas county saturated with law enforcment, it was not surprising that there were numerous arrests. The final numbers were still surprising. There were 12 arrests for DUI. Thirteen people were arrested for possession of a controlled substance, five for miscellaneous violations, several violations of probation, two for driving with a suspended or revoked license and one for felony driving with a suspended or revoked license.

More than 120 citations were also issued, including 63 for speeding. The remaining citations were varied and included careless driving, no headlights and tag not assigned.
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The New York prison escape story that has captivated the country appears to be at the end. Local news has reported that both prisoners were shot, one fatally and the other is now in custody.

For over three-weeks a manhunt for two escaped prisoners, called a “nightmare” by the governor of New York, came to a violent end this past weekend when one inmate was shot and killed Friday and another was shot and apprehended Sunday. After 22 days of searching by more than 1,000 law enforcement officials, the convicted murderers were finally captured.

Officials announced they had reason to believe the two convicts who escaped June 6 from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York, were planning to head to the Canadian border in a final play for freedom. This was after earlier reports said their plan to escape to Mexico failed due to a ride not showing up. U.S. and Canadian law enforcement sent reinforcements in an effort to squeeze the escapees and keep them from potentially making it out of the country.

Sometime Friday afternoon a civilian pulling a camper near Duane, New York. He heard a sound and later discovered after pulling into a campsite that there was a bullet hole in the camper.

After that, a S.W.A.T. team was deployed to a nearby cabin in New York about 20 miles south of the Canadian border.

Inside, they noticed the smell of gun powder. While searching the grounds, investigators noticed movement and heard coughing, state police said.

A short time later Matt, armed with a 20-gauge shotgun, was spotted by a law enforcement officer.

The convict was shot and killed by a Customs and Border Protection SWAT team. He had been serving 25 years to life in prison after being convicted of murder for beating a man to death.

Investigators then set up a perimeter in the area around where Matt was killed to try and corner the last fugitive.

Later that day a policeman was on a routine patrol in the area of Constable, New York, about 1.5 miles south of the Canadian border, when he spotted Sweat on a local road.

The cop ordered him to stop and shot the convict twice in the chest when he started to run.

Sweat, who was serving a life sentence after he was convicted of killing a sheriff’s deputy, was not armed and no law enforcement was injured in the capture.
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What happened, while sad, actually sounds like a country song come to life! A bounty hunter, a desperado and a gun fight…that sounds like old school country.

In Lynchburg, Tennessee a bounty hunter got into a shoot out with country singer Randy Howard leaving the singer dead. While details were still coming in at the time of this writing, the shootout is believed to have happened over a DUI charge!

Randy Howard was an early member of country music’s “Outlaw” movement, which rejected traditional country music in favor of a rougher sound. Howard shared the stage with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Hank Williams Jr., and has written songs for Hank Williams III, according to his LinkedIn site.

The “All American Redneck” singer had been charged with fourth-offense DUI, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of a firearm while intoxicated and driving on a revoked license. A warrant was issued for him when he missed a court date.

A friend had earlier offered to drive him to his court date but Randy told him he wasn’t going back to jail.

A bounty hunter by the name of Jackie Shell showed up at Howard’s home to take him into custody. It is alleged that Howard opened fire and Shell shot back. Jackie Shell is reported injured (undergoing surgery) while Randy was killed in the exchange of gunfire.

Tennessee authorities are investigating the bounty hunter to determine if he had the right to enter Randy’s home, an event which precipitated the shootout.
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While megastar Justin Bieber has vowed to get clean and stay out of trouble, his latest legal troubles may put his promise to the test.

Last Thursday in a tiny town in Canada, Justin Bieber plead guilty to assault and careless driving that involved an incident with photographers and his then girlfriend Selena Gomez.

The incident, that took place August 29, 2014,resulted in a plea bargain when the government reduced a dangerous driving charge in exchange for a guilty plea. Justin Bieber intentionally drove a four-wheel ATV into a van two photographers were using to stake him out at his family’s rural property, according to an agreed statement of facts.

The pop star then started to hitt one of them, Todd Gillis, 47, who said he was able to fend off the tiny singer who was yelling at him to leave.

Bieber landed multiple punches on Gillis through the window of the parked van.
While Justin did not hurt the large photagrapher, he was sore in his shoulder afterwards and most likely received a large settlement from Bieber in order to agree to the reduced charges.

In a surprising twist, the photographer was also found guilty of trespassing on Justin Bieber’s family home, which set the above events in motion.

Justin, for his part, appeared via video from his California criminal defense attorney‘s office. He was fined $750 for the careless driving and his assault charges were dismissed. It was unclear if he had to participate in a pretrial diversion program in order to secure the dismissal.

On the day he got arrested, he and his then girlfriend Selena Gomez took an ATV that seats two people, one in front of the other, to the nearby home of a family member. They were on vacation and it was reported that they were driving on roads with no helmets. Meanwhile they were being staked out by two photographers both established paparazzi who had shot them before.

Selena Gomez drove on the way out, but Justin Bieber drove on the way back, and spotted the photographers parked in a driveway up ahead as he approached his own driveway. He drove at them, intentionally colliding with the front right side of their van. The police were unable to determine where exactly the impact occurred, whether on or off the highway, but there was evidence that the van, previously parked, had been moving forward at the moment of impact.

After crashing into the van, Justin immediately raced up and started to batter the photographer.

His criminal charges were dropped, in part, because at the time of this incident, he had no other criminal record. Since this incident, he has had several run ins with the law in both California and Florida. His publicist had no comment after this latest incident and his twitter feed was unusually quiet as well.
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While the weather has been hot for months, the official arrival of summer brings with it more boating. Whether deep sea fishing or pleasure cruising, boating accidents are a serious problem faced by many residents in Florida. According to Florida Fish and Wildlife , Florida leads the country in boating accidents per year. each year than any other state. Alcohol (boating under the influence) plays a large part, coming in as a top-10 cause of boating accidents in Florida.

Recently, a pair of proposed bills in the Florida House and Senate could affect how the state handles convictions for boating under the influence of alcohol (BUI). The two proposed bills, House Bill 289 and Senate Bill 598, would toughen the penalties for a person convicted of boating under the influence of alcohol. If passed, the laws would go into effect in July of this year (2015). There are three primary provisions of the proposed legislation:

1. BUI convictions would be reported to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. This would mean a possible DRIVING suspension for a BOATING infraction!

2. BUI convictions would be recorded on a person’s driving record, just like convictions for driving under the influence (DUI);

3. Prior BUI convictions would be considered prior DUI convictions for purposes of enforcing Florida’s DUI laws, and vice versa! Currently, BUI convictions are not counted as DUI convictions for purposes of enhancement. If the law(s) are passed, a previous DUI charge may be used against you to enhance a BUI charge. Also, in the state of Florida, you can be charged with a felony DUI based on previous convictions (ie. three DUI charges in 10 years or four in total). If this bill passes (see below), a person can be looking at a felony DUI charge and a permanent driving suspension based on boating under the influence convictions from decades ago!

Besides bringing up potential constitutional issues, this bill had both supporters and opponents up in arms. If passed, the bill would go into effect July 1, 2015. As of this writing (June 2015), the Senate bill died in committee and there are no plans to reintroduce it.

What were the bills purpose? Clearly they aimed to reduce the number of boating accidents on Florida waterways,but they also opened up a “boatload” of issues. Criminally, we have already discussed potential issues.

For the victims of BUI and their personal injury attorneys, whole new avenues might have opened up. A person injured in Florida by a drunk boater can seek damages through the civil court system by filing a negligence lawsuit. To win this claim, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed the victim a duty, that the duty was breached, the plaintiff sustained damages, and that the breach was an actual and proximate cause of the damages.

Punitive damages are always a possibility in a DUI or drunk boating crash. If these bills had passed, would there have been a possibility for punitive damages based on PRIOR DUI/BUI convictions as well?

All boaters in Florida owe the people around them, including their own passengers, a duty of reasonable care. A person who chooses to drink alcohol and operate a boat has breached this duty, since his or her actions unreasonably endanger others and themselves. Hopefully this summer’s boating will be safe and fun for residents of the “Sunshine State”.
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Pinellas violent crimes lawyer.bmp From the BayNews9 website, a local man has been extradited to Massachusetts and charged in the 1981 murder of his neighbor. The twist? This will be his third time in court for this crime!

57-year-old Keith Butler was living out his golden years in Palm Harbor when he received a knock on his door. When he answered, he was arrested and extradited to Massachusetts. His crime? He is charged with murdering Francis Hussey who lived two doors down from him in 1981.

In January, 1981 41-year-old Francis Hussey was found beaten to death in his Braintree, MA home. Nearby neighbor Keith Butler quickly became a suspect after he admitted having a romantic relationship with the deceased. Francis’ body was badly beaten and several items appeared missing.

In 1983, after two trials resulting in hung juries, Keith was set free.

What changed 36 years later? Well forensic evidence for one. In 1981, police noticed a red stain on Keith’s jacket and shoes that appeared to be blood. DNA testing was not available at the time and the scientific evidence of the era showed that the blood MIGHT have been Husseys but was NOT Butlers.

With improved technology and a grant given to test old evidence, the jacket was sent out to the lab again. This time the DNA results came back as belonging to the victim. In fact there is a one in 32 trillion odds that it belongs to someone else!

The court record read “Mr. Hussey’s DNA profile was found in the blood stain from Keith Butler’s jacket”. “According to [the testing lab], the odds of another Caucasian male in North America having the same DNA profile as Mr. Hussey, the same profile on the jacket, is over 1 in 32 trillion.”

In addition, police found multiple witnesses that were all still available and willing to testify in the third trial.

Braintree police olice believed Hussey was killed Jan. 15, two days before Butler and his father reported finding his body on the kitchen floor of the house where the victim lived alone.

Police said Hussey showed obvious signs of head trauma. In addition, two burners on a gas stove had been left on, filling the kitchen with gas, and the phone line had been cut.

While no murder weapon was ever recovered, there was other signs of criminal activity. Six expensive Oriental rugs were missing from the home and never recovered. In the previous two trials, the prosecution argued that Butler killed Hussey so he could take the rugs and use the money from selling them to buy a plane ticket out of state.

A nearby antiques dealer, testified that Keith had called him several days before the slaying and asked if he would be interested in buying six Oriental rugs.

The dealer testified that he arranged for Butler to come by his house on Friday, Jan. 16, 1981 but he never showed. He spoke to Butler once after that but found him unreliable and chose not to deal with him again.

Sadly for the victim and society, Keith Butler had several run ins with the law both before and after this crime. He received a two-year jail sentence after he was found guilty of trying to burn down his parents’ Braintree home in 1993. He was also convicted of arson in 1987, and sent to jail for five years for a violation of probation.

Finally, in 2002, Keith was sentenced to just two years of probation after pleading guilty to breaking and entering and petit theft valued at $250 or less!

At his arraignment for his murder charge, the prosecutor announced his attention to put it on the trial docket. At that time, Keith Butler did not have a criminal defense lawyer and was unable to respond.
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dui 3.png The Tampa Bay Times had a brief story about DUI arrests in Pinellas over the Memorial Day weekend.

15 people were arrested for driving under the influence and one person was arrested for DUI manslaughter by Pinellas County law enforcement.

This took place during a DUI “wolf pack” operation that took place between 8p.m. Saturday and 5a.m. Sunday. Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office combined with Saint Petersburg, Largo, Gulfport and Tarpon Springs police agencies.

A “wolf pack” is a term used when police make an effort to bring attention to DUIs. Using special patrols or often “sobriety checkpoints”, police can often make numerous arrests during known drinking holidays. Often it is a coordinated effort between numerous jurisdictions and agencies. During this operation, police also arrested other drivers on a variety of charges, from a DUI involving serious bodily injury to illegal drug charges.

This operation might have come in handy just a few days later after a driving mishap in Saint Petersburg. In a story that drew quite a bit of attention, 59-year-old David Ellis drove his minivan over the bridge and into the water Tuesday afternoon.

The accident took place near Snell Isle and Coffee Pot Blvd NE. Mr. Ellis suffered minor injuries but refused medical treatment. The reason for the accident soon became clear. David was arrested for an enhanced DUI and blew a .273 and .264, over three times the legal limit! This was not his first brush with the law as he was found to have at least two prior DUI convictions.
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