Two individuals receive sentences for illegal driving practices

TAYLOR COUNTY—Growing up, many heard the phrase that driving was a privilege and not a right, but when the law is broken while driving, penalties can be strict, as two individuals learned in Taylor County Circuit Court last week.

Melinda Neel, 45, was present in court with her council, Michael Safcsak, to enter a guilty plea to third offense driving while under the influence of alcohol. For her crime, she could face a potential sentence of not less than 2 nor more than 5 years confined in prison and a fine of $3,000-$5,000, at the discretion of the court.

As part of the negotiated plea agreement, Taylor County Assistant Prosecutor Christopher Miller revealed that the state would allow for her sentence to be served on home confinement.

According to Neel, in October 2018, she received a call from a friend to come and pick them up, and while she knew she should probably not drive since she had been drinking, she opted to get behind the wheel.

“I wasn’t going to leave my house, but I decided I would help my friend,” she told the court. “That’s when I was stopped at the Blueville laundry mat by, I believe, Officer Collins.”She reported to the court that she had consumed approximately three or four beers prior to leaving her residence.

“You had a reported Blood Alcohol Content of .139 percent,” Moats shared.

He revealed that court documents showed she has previously been convicted in Marion County for DUI in October 2010 and again in May 2011 in Marion County.

While addressing his client’s sentencing, Safcsak said after being contacted shortly after Neel’s arrest, she reported to him that she had quit drinking all together.

“My client is going to be enrolled in AA classes, but was waiting until the outcome of the hearing today to do so,” he noted. “She has already taken the steps to have the Ignition Interlock Device, or Blow and Go, if you will, installed in her vehicle.”

He said that they would just be asking that the court sentence his client along with the state’s recommendation.

Moats ordered that Neel would serve on home confinement for two-to-five years, through the Taylor County Sheriff’s Department, under the watchful eye of Maranda Kyer. She was ordered to pay any costs associated with the program.

He further ordered that she would not be allowed to drive a vehicle or to use alcohol or drugs while on the confinement.

Mark Allen Hart, 33, was also present in court, to enter a guilty plea to third offense driving while revoked for driving while under the influence. He faced a potential sentence of a mandatory not less than one nor more than three years and a fine of not less than $3,000 nor more than $5,000.

He admitted in open court that he had been pulled over in October 2017, while driving in Taylor County without a valid driver’s license.

“I was working at the time and was going to lose my job,” Hart expressed to the court. “I didn’t know what else to do.”

Moats reported that documentation showed Hart has previously been convicted on the same charge in Preston County in December 2010 and in Monongalia County in May 2013 and October 2014.

Jamella Lockwood, Hart’s council, shared that her client had accepted responsibility for is actions.

“My girlfriend has agreed to drive me to and from work,” Hart told Moats. “Before, I didn’t have anyone else that could take me, and I just didn’t know what else to do.”

Moats ordered Hart to pay the minimum fine of $3,000 and sentenced him to a one-to-three-year term, with credit for time already served.

“Because you have already been eligible for parole or home confinement, it is the order of the court that your case is complete and that it be dismissed,” Moats voiced.

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