Man in coma after being struck by driver who was awaiting trial on DUI charges
Published: July 18, 2012
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ST. CROIX - A Frederiksted man arrested three times in less than a year on charges of driving while intoxicated and reckless driving is back behind bars after police said he struck a pedestrian Monday night.
Ralph Perez, 55, of Upper Love was arrested just after 9 p.m. Monday night on charges of driving under the influence and negligent driving after police said he struck a man in the Mount Pleasant area just after 7:30 p.m.
V.I. Police Officer Janella John said in her probable cause fact sheet that she was called to the scene of the accident, and when she arrived, emergency medical technicians already were on the scene, administering medical attention to the victim.
John said she then came into contact with Perez, who had a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage on his breath and was staggering as he tried to stand up from the vehicle.
John said she advised Perez of his rights and he proceeded to give her a statement. He told her that he had two beers earlier in the evening in Frederiksted but that he was just driving and had done nothing wrong, according to John's affidavit. Perez said the man walked right out in front of his vehicle and the accident was not his fault, according to John's affidavit.
According to the police report, John administered three field sobriety tests, and Perez was unable to complete any of them. She said he refused to take the chemical breathalyzer test and was arrested.
The pedestrian who was hit is in a coma because of serious head injuries and has internal bleeding and physicians fear that the victim may not survive, police said.
Monday's arrest is not the first for Perez in recent months. In September, he accepted a plea deal from prosecutors and was allowed to plead guilty to reckless endangerment after being charged with reckless endangerment and driving under the influence. Perez was sentenced to probation and a $300 fine. In December, Perez was arrested again on the same charges, and that case still is pending. Bail had been set $10,000, and he was released after posting 10 percent.
When Perez appeared before Magistrate Judge Jessica Gallivan to be advised of his rights Tuesday, Gallivan said she was confused as to why Perez was driving when his driving privileges had been suspended. She said he was ordered not to drive while the case was pending, but his driver's license was never confiscated by the court.
In fact, despite the court order in December to not drive while the case was pending, Perez received his renewed driver's license in April.
Perez surrendered that driver's license to the court in lieu of the $1,000 bail that was set Monday night.
Gallivan said that because Perez had disobeyed the court's order, she believes he needs stricter conditions of release. She increased his bail to $25,000 and said he must provide significant surety for the bail. She also ordered that he have a third-party custodian before he is released.
Assistant Public Defender Yolan Brow Ross asked the court to allow Perez an hour to tie up some loose ends before he was sent to jail, but Gallivan ordered the marshals to assume custody of Perez immediately.
Perez's arraignment is scheduled for Aug. 1.
- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.