Deerfield woman sentenced to probation for felony DWI

The Cortland County Courthouse (Cortland Voice file photo)

CORTLAND, N.Y. — A Deerfield woman pled guilty to driving drunk with her two young sons in her car in exchange for a sentence of five years probation Tuesday in Cortland County Court.

Justine R. Benoit, 30, pled guilty to one count of aggravated driving while intoxicated with a child in the vehicle, a felony. Benoit could have been sentenced up to one and one-third to four years in prison on the charge.

Benoit was arrested on Nov. 23 after she struck an embankment when she tried to turn into the parking lot of the Sunoco gas station at 2964 Route 13 in Cortlandville, according to police.

District Attorney Patrick Perfetti told Judge David Alexander Tuesday that when the Cortland County Sheriff’s Department arrived at the accident scene, Benoit was carrying her two-year-old son to the ambulance to be evaluated and her three-year-old son was walking beside her. No one was injured in the accident, according to police.

Benoit was unable to answer simple questions on the scene, her speech was slow and slurred and she almost fell out of the ambulance, Perfetti told the court. Benoit had a blood-alcohol content of 0.31 percent — more than three times the legal limit, Perfetti noted.

Benoit told Sheriff’s officers she had taken Zoloft, an anti-depressant medication, he said. Officers found an empty 50 milliliter bottle of Fireball Whiskey in her black, 2010 Volvo SUV, as well as another unopened bottle of whiskey.

Two weeks before the accident Benoit completed rehab for her alcohol addiction, Perfetti said.

Since the accident, Benoit has attended counseling, Alcoholic Anonymous meetings and therapy with a psychiatrist, Perfetti said.

The November accident was Benoit’s first arrest, he noted. She was initially charged with felony DWI Leandra’s Law; driving while intoxicated and aggravated DWI 0.18 or higher, misdemeanors;  and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, misdemeanors.