H. Michael Steinberg has 38+ years of experience practicing Colorado criminal law. Mr. Steinberg strives to stay current with the ever changing aspects of criminal law issues and updates resulting in his extensive knowledge of successful criminal defense as well as appellate work. He is also an active member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar Association, the Colorado Trial Lawyer's Association, and the Colorado and Arapahoe Bar Associations.
Published on:

Colorado DUI Driver Gets 36 Years In the Deaths of Two – The High Cost of the Making The Wrong Decision

The Denver Post recently reported on a sentencing in a drunk driving death in Denver Colorado.

Sandra Jacobson, convicted on nine counts related to the Jan. 28, 2009 traffic deaths of two women taking a cab to Denver International Airport, today was sentenced to 36 years in prison.

Jacobson, whose BAC was estimated at more than three times the legal limit when her truck hit a cab causing the deaths of librarians Kate McClelland, 71, and Kathy Krasniewicz, 54, and injuring cabdriver Nejmudean Abdusalam, was convicted in April.

The District Attorney proved to a jury that a drunken Jacobson sped along at more than 80 mph, lost control of her pickup, swerved across two lanes, clipped the van and drove off.

Jacobson first told police that she’d downed cold medicine, and then insisted she was sober and driving the speed limit, momentarily lost control of her truck after her dog went for a Cheeto — possibly because the unseen taxi crashed into her — but never realized she’d made contact with another vehicle.

In Jacobson’s version of events, she stopped a short time later at Denver International Airport to ship a puppy to her brother in Texas, then downed a “road pop” she’d inadvertently left in her truck days earlier. That road pop was a bottle of Vitamin Water laced with 99-proof banana schnapps. The Denver Post Online carrried the story.

At Sentencing the presideing judge – Judge McGahey — handed down one of the stiffest sentences in Colorado history -Sandra Jacobson, convicted on nine counts related to the Jan. 28, 2009 traffic deaths of two women taking a cab to Denver International Airport was sentenced to 36 years in prison.

H. Michaels Take:

The issue in this case is the danger, in a climate of “hang ’em high” of taking a case like this to trial. The judge, at a suppression hearing to decide whether there was probable cause to arrest the Defendant after the accident, and noting that nearly 3 1/2 hours passed between the time police officers first contacted Jacobson and the time she was given a breath test, said that while several police officers testified they did not smell booze on her breath, there was “enough” probable cause to make the arrest and demand the blood/ or brath test.

This ruling reminds us of the extremely low standard for probable cause to arrest in Colorado.

Denver District Judge Shelia Rappaport concluded that despite the fact some officers didn’t smell alcohol they observed that she was “nervous, fidgety and acting erratically.”

“There was certainly probable cause, based on everything in front of the court,” Rappaport said in a hearing this afternoon.

Clients that believe that a case will be dismissed because of an alleged violation of their constitutional rights – sometimes have a case worth pursuing – however, as this case demonstrates — the risks are high – if – in this day of harsh scrutiny of judges in these cases, that the trial judge will give the defendant the benefit of the doubt..

The decision to pursue a trial or a plea bargain is a tough one and is a decision that should be carefully made with your Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer..