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Patricia Avino calls for tougher penalties for drunk drivers

The widow of a 63-year-old electrician, who died after being hit by a car driven by a drunk driver, said that the punishment for drunk drivers is not enough. Whenever the widow Patricia Avino comes across someone saying that drunk driving is not a violent crime, all the pain related to her husband’s death and the situation her family is facing as a result of their loss come to her mind.

Her husband, Frank Avino, was struck by a car when he was working along the Grand Central Parkway on a summer morning last year.

“My husband was thrown 75 feet, his body was crushed,” said Patricia Avino, 60. “And the justice system considers this a non-violent crime? I have a huge problem with that. My husband died violently.”

Legal proceeding is going on and a hearing on the case is scheduled for next Thursday at Queens Supreme Court.

The Avino family is struggling hard not only against the pain they are facing after Avino’s death but also to gear up for a possible trail since the last seven months.

There is a fear in Patricia Avino that the driver who hit her husband while driving under the influence will escape the tough punishment he deserves.

Munshi Abdullah was the driver of the car and field sobriety tests after the crash showed that the driver had nearly three times the legal limit of alcohol in his system.

Patricia Avino said that her family had already faced heartbreaking pain due to drunk driving when her nephew was killed by a drunk driver eight years ago.

“It was in the middle of the night and there were no witnesses,” she said. “The driver couldn’t stand up. He was sentenced to 60 days in rehab and he did 40.”

Avino also said that her husband often remarked that drivers didn’t pay enough attention to road workers and in the end, this accident proved it.

“Whoever expected for someone to be drunk at 10 in the morning and drive into him at 60 miles per hour?” she asked. “That car was as much of a weapon as a gun.”

After his arrest, Abdullah was charged with second-degree vehicular manslaughter, second-degree manslaughter, unlicensed operation and operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drug.

Abdullah was unable to post the $350,000 bail and remained in jail. He could face up to 15 years in prison. No comment came from Abdullah’s lawyer and family.

But Avino is worried that Abdullah will actually receive less punishment under a plea agreement. According to Avino, one reason out of so many reasons due to which Abdullah is not facing a longer sentence was the fact that a blood test administered after the accident at a hospital determined his blood alcohol level was .18 which is lower than the field sobriety test level of .21.

A spokesman for Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, Kevin Ryan, said that they could not comment on the specifics of an ongoing case.

“The district attorney is a strong advocate against drunk driving,” Ryan said. “In this particular case, we will work with the evidence and the law to ensure justice.”

Avino said that she trusts Brown’s office but is frustrated with the limitations of the law related to drunk driving.

“It’s not the district attorney’s fault. He is doing the best he can,” she said. “The whole system needs to be revamped”.

A victim service specialist at Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Long Island, Mary Scala, said Avino’s story is painfully familiar. “We always know there won’t be that maximum sentence people are hoping for,” she said.