By Danny Schrafel
An East Northport teen is facing a felony DWI charge after he allegedly drove high on marijuana Jan. 8 with his 15-year-old brother in the car, Suffolk County police said.
Police allege the 17-year-old was driving westbound on 10th Avenue in Huntington at 3:03 p.m. Jan. 8 when, while attempting to make a three-point turn, struck a light post.
The teen had “bloodshot, glassy eyes, the odor of marijuana emanating from his breath, person and vehicle” and failed sobriety tests, according to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office.
According to police, he had two passengers in the car, one of whom was his 15-year-old brother – and that’s where the felony charge comes into the picture.
Because the teen is accused of driving under the influence with someone under age 16 in the car, under Leandra’s law, he was automatically charged with an E felony. He also faces a misdemeanor count of operating a motor vehicle while impaired by drugs, acting in a manner injurious to a child under age 17 and endangering the welfare of a child. He’s also charged with unlawful possession of marijuana, a violation.
The teen was released under supervision, according to online court records, and is due back in court Jan. 21.
The case should serve as a clarion call to teens and others to never get behind the wheel under the influence, Anthony Ferrandino, a drug and alcohol counselor at Northport High School, said.
“I’m sure that kid didn’t even think of his consequences, that he could even get those consequences driving around with his younger brother,” he said.
Ferrandino, who also serves as co-chair of the Northport-East Northport Drug and Alcohol Task Force, added that while most have gotten the message that it’s unacceptable to drink and drive or get behind the wheel under the influence of hard drugs, there’s somewhat of a lag when it comes to getting the message when it comes to driving and marijuana.
With proponents of the decriminalization and/or legalization of marijuana gaining traction in recent years, getting the message across of the drug’s ability to impair reaction times is more critical than ever, he said.
“That’s the thing we have all the time… when kids make the first bad decision to take drugs, when they make the second bad decision to get behind the wheel and drive… you don’t know what can happen,” he said. “You can kill somebody. You can kill somebody else. You can get arrested.”