Yates County DWI Victim Impact Panels

Staff reports
The Chronicle Express

PENN YAN — The Yates County STOP DWI Program sponsored Yates County Drunk/Impaired Driving Victim Impact Panels (VIP) at 7 p.m.  Sept. 30 and Oct. 21 at the County Office Building auditorium. Due to Covid-19 pandemic safety with social spacing guidelines, two events had to be held.  

Attending the Yates Counrty DWI Victim Impact Panel is required of all those convicted of DWI in any court in the county.

Sheriff Ron Spike, who chairs the Task Force VIP, said, “Our mission is to have driving under the influence by alcohol or drugs offenders understand the human factor of victimization that impaired driving can cause others affected by a related crash and how lives, families and friends are forever affected by making a bad choice to drink or take illegal drugs, and then drive a motor vehicle.” 

The panel speaker on both dates was Michelle Curtin, a teacher in the Wayland-Cohocton Central School District in Steuben County. She presented a story about her mother who was also a teacher who lost her life in a tragic collision with a drunk driver, and how that affected her and her family, as well as her mother’s young elementary school students. Curtin has turned her grief into a campaign of awareness for parents and teens in an effort to prevent similar tragedies. She has been recognized by the Steuben County STOP DWI program.

“Those in attendance certainly realized how her life and family was forever impacted by someone not thinking and driving drunk with a very high BAC,” Sheriff Spike said.

As a part of the final disposition of DWI cases, all courts in Yates County order those convicted to attend a VIP as a condition of their sentence.

Thirty-three court ordered offenders attended along with several guests. All appeared for check-in, magnetometer screening, and breathe testing by Sheriff’s Deputies, Court Security, and Penn Yan Police Officers before the panel commenced. Yates County Probation Officers were also present for registration and assistance including Director Sharon Dawes at reception. Penn Yan Police Chief Thomas Dunham issued the rules for the session. The STOP programs VIP Coordinator Linda Wright organized the event. Two newer patrol Sheriff’s Deputies also attended as required for officer training and awareness. Sheriff Spike served as emcee and opening remarks were from the Hon. Todd Casella, Yates County District Attorney who spoke on legal consequences and creating victims. 

 The event lasted about 60 minutes. The attendees then completed an evaluation form and received a certificate of attendance for their submission to the courts for verification that they attended as ordered.

 Sheriff Spike thanked the members of the county task force and Michelle Curtin for making this VIP a success. 

 “If we can change behaviors and attitudes then good choices will replace bad ones, for if not the consequences can be deadly,” said VIP Coordinator Linda Wright.