Alleged DWI Driver Behind Wheel Despite 23 License Suspensions

The driver had not had a legal license since 1979, police say

By Greg Cergol
|  Friday, May 18, 2012  |  Updated 12:10 PM EDT
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Police say a driver pulled over in Suffolk County previously had his license suspended 23 times. Greg Cergol reports.

NBC New York

Police say a driver pulled over in Suffolk County previously had his license suspended 23 times. Greg Cergol reports.

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A Long Island man recently arrested on drunk driving charges has had his driver's license suspended 23 times, authorities said.

He has been without a legal driver's license for more than three decades.

Suffolk Police arrested Kurt Knoernschild, 53, early Thursday after he allegedly ran a red light in Mount Sinai. He was later charged with felony driving while intoxicated and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges, and was represented by a lawyer from Legal Aid, which does not comment.

Knoernschild first had his license revoked for driving without insurance in 1979. But that didn't stop him from driving, DMV records show.

Knoernschild was convicted of drunk driving six times between 1982 and 2005. In addition, police stopped him 11 other times on suspicion of drunk driving. Each time, he refused a chemical DWI test.  

"I've never seen a driving record with such a consistent pattern of violation," said Lt. David Geer of the Suffolk Police Highway Patrol. 

"It appears, at first blush, he fell through the cracks," Geer said when asked how Knoernschild had remained on the road all these years.

Knoernschild has served about six years in jail for drunk driving between 2003 and 2011, according to Suffolk County district attorney spokesman Robert Clifford.  Each of his three stints behind bars lasted about two years.

"He's just a menace who gets out of jail and drinks and drives again," said Clifford.

But according to Geer, Knoernschild avoided more severe prison time because he was never involved in a serious accident and wasn't considered a "violent offender."  

Knoernschild is the second driver arrested in a week with a history of driving problems.

A Bay Shore man taken into custody for going through a red light in Central Islip last week had seen his license suspended 56 times.

"The driver who killed my daughter had been arrested for DWI four times before," said Deena Cohen of Mother's Against Drunk Driving.  "Does it bother me? Absolutely."

Cohen lost her 21-year-old daughter, Jodi, in a crash with a drunk driver in June 1989. Ever since, she has been advocating for tougher DWI laws and a new attitude about the driving offense.

"A car is a weapon," Cohen added, urging drivers to call on legislators and judges to crack down more severely on those who habitually get behind the wheel after drinking. 

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