Mother of crash victim rallies for new police policy

Wednesday July 3, 2013

WINDHAM -- There is a new petition calling for mandatory blood testing at the scene of an auto accident that results in death.

A Facebook page has been created by the mother of a crash victim with the goal of receiving enough support to make a law that its supporters hope to call Tressa's Law.

On July 2, the page was liked by 118 people; 29 were talking about it.

"It's gotten quite a bit of support," said Crystal Lyn Corriveau. "Some of the people are from other states. While we really appreciate that they like it, (Legislators) will only count the Vermont residents."

Tressa McKinney, 20, was killed in a car crash on Jan. 28. She had been traveling southbound on Route 30 when she lost control of her vehicle and skidded across the road. She crashed into an SUV, which Gavin Scotti was driving, in the northbound lane.

"I was a little stunned when I realized they did a toxicology on Tressa but the driver that survived, they didn't do a toxicology on him," said Crystal Lyn Corriveau. "I'm not accusing him of being drunk. When this happens, and you're left with a lot of what ifs, what ifs, what ifs, some of those you can answer. Some of those you will never answer. This particular one could have been answered."

Currently, police officers need probable cause to conduct a blood test. If there is no concern over the driver's sobriety, the police are not required to do any type of testing.

The Reformer received an e-mail from Vermont Law School Professor of Law Peter Teachout, which referenced analysis from his son, who is "on top of current developments in constitutional criminal procedure."

Cabot Teachout, an attorney at Desmeules Olmstead and Ostler, researched similar cases in Mississippi, Pennsylvania and Illinois, where mandatory blood test requirement laws were struck down "because those statutes contained no probable cause or warrant requirement."

"Vermont already has a procedure for obtaining blood tests in certain cases where accidents occur, but it only applies where there is probable cause to believe that the operator was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If the operator refuses in these cases, the officer can go to a judge to ask for permission to use force to obtain a blood sample," stated Cabot Teachout. "That said, a mandatory blood draw law for all fatalities would certainly be unconstitutional if there were no probable cause, no consent and no warrant requirement."

Corriveau sent an e-mail to Gov. Peter Shumlin. Leigh Appleby of the Governor's Office wrote back, thanking her for the message and sharing the story of McKinney's untimely death. Appleby recommended speaking with her state representative about the possible legislation.

Although the Legislature is out until next year, Corriveau thought she'd get a head start. In January, she plans to go to legislators with the petition.

Her goal is to receive 20,000 likes on Facebook, which will show support for the law. Corriveau had been told that getting 200 people to support the petition would be good and 2,000 would be great.

"I said, ‘We're going to do 20,000,'" Corriveau told the Reformer.

She also has set up the Tressa McKinney Memorial Fund, which will aid families who are dealing with a similar loss but don't have life insurance.

Corriveau said that she had bought life insurance plans for her children prior to the incident. Having no financial hardships gave her family the ability to grieve without worrying about money, she said.

"It's very difficult to go through this process," said Corriveau. "In those beginning weeks, I didn't take in a lot of what was said to me. Fortunately, I didn't have to. The money was there because of the life insurance. So my family was able to take care of everything."

To donate to the Tressa McKinney Memorial Fund, send in a check made up to the Tressa McKinney Memorial Fund to Neighborhood Connections at 5700 Vermont Route 100, Londonderry, Vt. 05148 or to People's United Bank. Checks can also be given to Corriveau and her husband Jimmy Corriveau, who will deliver it to Neighborhood Connections.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or Follow Chris on Twitter @ CMaysReformer.


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