Lending your car to unlicensed driver can land you in jail

By Patricia Meade

YOUNGSTOWN — Eddie Winphrie’s mother is paying the price for owning the car that her unlicensed son drove.

Cathy Butler, 43, was charged with wrongful entrustment of a motor vehicle after Patrolman Brian Booksing, an accident investigator, reviewed her son’s seven driving-under-suspension arrests. The wrongful-entrustment charge, a first-degree misdemeanor, is punishable by up to six months in jail and $1,000 fine.

Booksing said the charge is filed after a pattern is found in which the owner of a car is aware that the person driving it doesn’t have a valid license. He said when a driving-under-suspension arrest is made, the car is towed and held for release to the owner.

When the owners come to claim the car, they’re told they can be charged with wrongful entrustment should it happen again, Booksing said. Roughly two dozen men and women have been charged with wrongful entrustment so far this year, records show.

Bret Hartup, assistant city prosecutor, said a presumption in the law is that if the vehicle owner and unlicensed driver live together, the vehicle owner knows the driving status of the person using the vehicle. He said Butler came to his attention Nov. 12 when Patrolman Greg Miller noted in Winphrie’s arrest report that Winphrie keeps driving his mother’s cars.

Each of the seven times Winphrie, 25, of Hylda Avenue, has been charged with driving under suspension, he was driving a car belonging to his mother, reports show. The arrests began in August 2005.

The two most recent arrests were Oct. 29 and Nov. 12. Winphrie is due in court next month for pretrial hearings.

Butler, also of Hylda Avenue, said she knew her son’s license was suspended but thought he was having a friend with a valid license do the driving. Her son, she said, didn’t know police could arrest her.

She pleaded no contest in municipal court this past week. Judge Robert P. Milich found her guilty, fined her $100, placed her on one year’s probation and ordered that her car, a 1995 Chevrolet Caprice, be immobilized for 30 days.

Butler said it won’t happen again and she’s warning everyone she knows not to loan their cars to unlicensed drivers.

“I told all my friends, ‘Don’t do it; don’t do it!’ You love your family but, shoot, sometimes you got to let them go. They’re grown,” Butler said. “I’m spreading [the word] to everybody ... I don’t want what happened to me to happen to somebody else. If they don’t listen, it can happen to them and they can go to jail. I’m lucky I didn’t go to jail.”

Read the full story Monday in The Vindicator and on vindy.com.

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