VINELAND — Local authorities took Anderson Sotomayor to the Police Department on April 9, charged him with drunken driving and released him to the custody of someone they called a “responsible, sober” person.
They did the same thing after arresting the 45-year-old Almond Road resident on drunken driving charges April 11 and 25.
Finally, after arresting Sotomayor again for alleged drunken driving early Saturday morning, city police tried something different — they asked an on-call municipal judge to set bail, something that would allow Sotomayor to be detained and prevent him from getting behind the wheel of a car.
Police Capt. Thomas Ulrich said the judge ruled it was not possible because of the nature of the offense. Sotomayor was to be released on a summons, Ulrich said.
“There’s nothing we can do at this point,” Ulrich said.
The name of the judge who dealt with the latest Sotomayor case was unavailable.
Mayor Robert Romano said about the only option open to the city would have involved taking an intoxicated Sotomayor to a hospital and hope the medical staff would commit him to the Cumberland County jail. That action would cost the city thousands of dollars for potentially limited results, he said.
“He would have been out in a couple of days anyway,” said Romano, the city’s public safety director and a former local police officer. “That’s just the way the system works. It’s not a perfect system. The only thing you can do is keep arresting him.”
However, Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae said she is reviewing Sotomayor’s situation, and wants to determine whether there is any legal action open to the city or law enforcement.
Sotomayor is scheduled to appear May 30 in Municipal Court in connection with charges filed when he was arrested April 9, 11 and 25.
But it won’t be the first time he has appeared in court because of his driving.
Officials with the state Motor Vehicle Commission, or MVC, said Tuesday that Sotomayor has an extensive record of violations dating to when he got his license in 1985. MVC spokeswoman Elyse Coffey said those violations include convictions for drunken driving offenses that occurred in Lower Township, Cape May County, in 1989 and in Atlantic City in 1992.
The state suspended Sotomayor’s driving privilege 23 times since the 1989 incident, Coffey said. The majority of those suspensions involved administrative actions such as Sotomayor failing to pay surcharges and missing court appearances, she said. Sotomayor’s driving privilege was fully restored only in December, she said.
Additionally, Coffey said MVC documents show Sotomayor has a number of convictions for violations such as speeding and careless driving. Sotomayor was convicted on those two offenses the first year he had his license, she said.
Coffey said MVC has no authority to just suspend Sotomayor’s driving privilege.
“We’re not an enforcement agency,” Coffey said. “Unless somebody tells us to do something, we don’t have that authority. And just because a license is suspended doesn’t mean they’re not going to drive.”
Coffey referred questions involving the legal aspects of trying to stop Sotomayor from driving pending his municipal court appearance to the state Attorney General’s Office. Officials there deferred comment to Webb-McRae.
Sotomayor could not be reached for comment.
Police Department records show that:
- Sotomayor’s first drunken driving arrest here occurred April 9, when he allegedly hit a police car while backing out of a parking space in the 300 block of Axtell Avenue at about 8:50 p.m. The report says police did not make Sotomayor take all the standard field sobriety tests because he has no right leg.
Sotomayor was charged with drunken driving and refusal to take a breath test.
- At 4:05 a.m. April 11, Sotomayor struck a utility pole near Landis Avenue and Main Road. He was charged with drunken driving, reckless driving, careless driving, having an open container of alcohol in the car and refusing to take a breath test.
- Police stopped Sotomayor while he was allegedly driving erratically near Delsea Drive and Park Avenue at about 9:20 p.m. April 25. Police by that time were familiar with Sotomayor.
“I approached the Buick and met with the driver, who I immediately recognized as Anderson Sotomayor from prior police contact for driving while intoxicated arrests,” Officer Adam Shaw wrote in his report.
Sotomayor was charged with drunken driving, refusing to take a breath test, failure to maintain a lane, having an open container of alcohol in the car, consuming alcoholic beverages in a motor vehicle, failure to present registration and insurance, failure to properly maintain vehicle lights, improper use of a center turn lane and failure to signal.
- At about 1:40 a.m. Saturday, Sotomayor drove his car over a curb and onto private property in the 200 block of Grape Street. Police charged Sotomayor with drunken driving, and said other charges may be filed pending further investigation.
City police said Sotomayor was also involved in an incident not related to drunken driving recently.
Police said Sotomayor hit a school bus April 2. He was charged with improper passing, leaving the scene of an accident and failure to report an accident.,
Contact Thomas Barlas: