On August 20, 2016, Kelly Ann Conkin was driving along South Tryon Street in Charlotte. It was here that she made the mistake that caused her to be sentenced to 12 to 15 years behind bars, according to the Charlotte Observer. At one point on her drive, she crossed over the grass that made the median, and drove into oncoming traffic. Her vehicle struck the Toyota of Cecelia Buitrago de Gonzalez and killed her. After the crash, police found that Conkin’s blood alcohol level was .21, which is much higher than the legal limit of .08. She would not drive again.
Gonzales was visiting Charlotte to see family. She lived in Bogota, Columbia, and ran a clothing design business. She was well known for working with the homeless in her city as well. She was 79 at the time of her death.
This was not Conkin’s first time driving impaired. Conkin had a history of DUI (called DWI in North Carolina) charges in the three to four years prior. She’d been convicted in two of those cases in fact. She was fortunate enough to get a second chance after pleading down her first charge. Then, when she was charged again in South Carolina, they did not know that she had a previous conviction, and she escaped without a harsher penalty. In the vast majority of cases, when given a second chance, drunk drivers change their ways after being scared straight. Sadly, in the case of Conkin, this was not to be.
This time, the courts had all the information they needed. She was set for an extremely harsh penalty, and she was charged with 2nd degree murder, because of her history of driving impaired. She pled guilty, and is now awaiting sentencing. She apologized profusely. Trying to hold back tears, she stated, “knowing that I’m the reason so many are suffering, because of me, is sad.”
Driving impaired can ruin so many lives. It can certainly ruin the lives of victims and their families, but also of the driver. Conkin was a repeat offender, but for most people driving drunk is a lapse in judgment that could change their lives forever. It’s crucial that if you plan to drink you find an alternative to driving yourself home. You can use a designated driver, or a cab, or an Uber or another ridesharing service. Public transportation is also a much better option than getting behind the wheel and driving. If you’re unsure if you’re too impaired to drive, then err on the side of caution and find a way home.
That said, there may be a time when you make a mistake and decide to drive home when you shouldn’t. Getting stopped by the police is a much better outcome than getting in an accident. In Charlotte, hire a DUI attorney who can help you get those charges for your one time mistake lowered, or even dismissed, so you can get on with your life and drive fully sober going forward.