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Tampa woman charged with three DUIs avoids prison

TAMPA — An 18-year-old woman told police she didn't realize "smoking marijuana and driving would be a DUI" when she was charged with driving under the influence three times in 18 days last spring. A prosecutor said Tuesday Kimberly McCarthy "doesn't know herself what her substance abuse problems are."

A judge gave McCarthy a chance to find out. Instead of sending her to prison, Hillsborough Circuit Judge Lisa Campbell ordered McCarthy into a residential drug treatment program followed by community control and supervision.

It was a big break for McCarthy who at one point faced two felonies and a raft of misdemeanors and was denied bail because of her inability to control her addictions. She cried often in earlier court hearings. Her grandfather said she had a "good streak" somewhere inside her. Appearing Tuesday with her long hair chopped to a crew cut, she declined to say anything when sentenced.

McCarthy got her learner's license only last November and wasn't supposed to be driving without an adult. But in the first two months of this year, driving solo in her grandparents' vehicle, she was cited for careless driving, violating her learner's license and not wearing a seat belt.

On Feb. 23, police found her driving with an open bottle of Sailor Jerry spiced rum, 12 Xanax pills, marijuana and a bong. That led to her first misdemeanor DUI charge, plus a felony charge for possession of a controlled substance.

Six days later, the Department of Highway Safety sent her a letter stating it was suspending her license.

But she kept driving. On March 11, McCarthy was stopped again, once more charged with possession of marijuana and misdemeanor DUI. She told police she'd smoked marijuana four hours earlier.

Then the next day, McCarthy rear-ended a stopped car. The victims thought she looked drunk. Police noted glassy eyes. They found marijuana, a bong, a roach clip and a glass pipe in her van. This time she was charged with felony DUI.

"I feel sorry for her," said the other driver, Darwin Matute, 41. "She's wasting her life, and she doesn't realize it."

In court on Tuesday, Judge Campbell said McCarthy would remain jailed until a bed could be found for her in a residential drug treatment program.

After her treatment, she will serve three years of supervision, two of those years under community control, meaning she will have to wear an ankle monitor. When she finishes supervision, she will then begin a year of probation. The judge suspended her license for six months.

The judge also chastised McCarthy's grandparents for allowing her to drive their vehicle and ordered it disabled for 10 days.

John Barry can be reached at (813) 226-3383 or jbarry@tampabay.com.

Tampa woman charged with three DUIs avoids prison 06/26/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 12:39am]
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