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After negotiations with the Suffolk County district attorney's office, a 32-year-old Ronkonkoma man accepted a plea deal of five-and-a-half to 16-and-a-half years in prison for the DUI and aggravated vehicular homicide charges he was facing. According to a Suffolk County assistant district attorney, this case is one of few in which the defendant was convicted of a vehicular homicide charge due to prescription drug intoxication alone.

The fatal accident occurred in Mastic on Dec. 10, 2011, as the family of four were on their way to go Christmas tree shopping. While impaired on various drugs that included alprazolam and oxycodone, the defendant was speeding at over 100 mph when he rammed the family's pickup truck traveling eastbound on Sunrise Highway. The truck careened off the road and slammed into a tree. The couple's seven-year-old daughter was knocked unconscious from the blow, and their five-year-old son was mortally wounded. The mother, a registered nurse, described having to watch the heart monitor indicate her son's heart had ceased beating after he was taken off life support later at the hospital. His injuries were so traumatic that his organs were unsalvageable for transplantation.

Before accepting the plea deal, the defendant was facing a maximum sentence of eight-and-a-third to 16-and-a-half years of incarceration. Having already been jailed for two years awaiting the outcome of his trial, he is eligible for parole in three-and-a-half years.

The assistant district attorney who prosecuted the case admonished him for his alleged "doctor shopping" to provide him with the large doses of prescription narcotics to which he was addicted. Although the defendant apologized in open court for his irresponsible actions and the pain he caused the young boy's family and friends, the deceased boy's parents rejected his efforts, calling them insincere and accusing him of lying at the accident scene and displaying arrogance throughout the court proceedings.

If you are involved in an at-fault accident while impaired by drugs or alcohol and a death results, grief, guilt and panic may overwhelm you and cloud your thinking processes at the time when you most need to make decisions with a clear head. Retaining an experienced defense attorney to represent you and your long-term interests is necessary at such a traumatic time.

Source: newsday.com, "Steven Kinalis sentenced in car death of 5-year-old John Thomas Gaffney" Andrew Smith, Nov. 18, 2013

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