Council opposes 'Michelle's Law'


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  • Council members Ada Erik, left, and Mike Hensley disagree on whether to support Michelle's Law, which would require drivers in fatal car accidents to be blood tested for drugs and alcohol.



"This is the reversal of one of our founding principles. It's important. Once you lose your freedoms, you're not likely to get it back in your lifetime."
Councilman Mike Hensley on Michelle's Law

The West Milford Township Council voted Wednesday night to oppose the state's proposed legislation to blood test all drivers involved in fatal accidents.

It was a 3-2 vote, with Councilwoman Vivienne Erk abstaining.

Discussions on the proposed law, which is called "Michelle's Law," named after a 17-year-old high school student Michelle Sous, who was killed while crossing the street in front of her North Haledon home in 2013, divided the council. Councilmen Lou Signorino, Mike Hensley and Councilwoman Michele Dale voted to oppose the law, while Councilwomen Ada Erik and CarlLa Horton said they were in favor of it. Erk abstained, saying it's an issue for Trenton to decide.

Three weeks ago, Manal and Emil Sous, parents of Michelle Sous, spoke to the council, trying to convince them that this proposed law would bring science into the process and leave no doubt on the fault of a driver.

"To diagnose a driver at a scene as intoxicated is not scientific at all," said Manal Sous.

Senate Bill S-3117 and Assembly Bill A-4464 would require that any driver involved in a fatal accident must submit to a blood test to determined if drugs or alcohol were involved in the crash.

But Signorino was adamant this law would be in "direct conflict with our constitutionally protected, God-given rights."

He said the bills don't seem to be going anywhere, but felt it was important to go on the record opposing them. Bloomingdale receently voted to support the proposed law, but not many other municipalities have taken any action, Signorino added.

Hensley, recognizing the Souses' emotional and passionate plea, stood by his argument Wednesday saying it is "an erosion of our liberties." He said people are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

"What you're saying is you are guilty until proven innocent," Hensley said Wednesday. "That is my constitutional objection to this law."

Hensley also said this law is an expansion of the notion of implied consent.

"For me, as a free person, there should be no such thing as implied consent," said Hensley. "I have not given anybody - my neighbor, my state or any federal agency - my implied consent."

But Erik, who actually wanted the council to send its support of the law to Trenton, had a different view. And it was personal. Her friend was killed last year by a driver high on heroin. She herself was involved in an accident last Thanksgiving morning that took the lives of several of her farm animals and left her with injuries. She wants all drivers involved in a fatal accident to be tested to show whether anything illegal was involved.

"Everyone out there with a drivers license agreed to consent to motor vehicle laws," she said. "There's no implied consent. You signed for it right there (when you received your drivers license)."

"It won't just prove guilt, it will also prove innocence," she said.

But Hensley and Signorino look at it more for, what they view as, the loss of rights.

"This is the reversal of one of our founding principles," said Hensley. "It's important. Once you lose your freedoms, you're not likely to get it back in your lifetime."

Is that how you see it? Go to westmilfordmessenger.com and tell us your thoughts.

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