Schenectady County

Judge rejects bid for bail for Rotterdam woman with 8 DWIs

A judge Wednesday rejected a new effort by a Rotterdam woman with eight prior drunken driving convic

A judge Wednesday rejected a new effort by a Rotterdam woman with eight prior drunken driving convictions to be freed on bail pending trial on a new felony drunken driving charge.

Heather Higgins, 52, appeared in court with her attorney, Paul Callahan, who argued that she should be released on bail with the added assurance of her appearance for trial provided by an alcohol monitoring system and a location monitoring system.

Callahan made a similar request last week at Higgins’ arraignment after her indictment, but he returned to court Wednesday morning after doing more research on the possibilities.

The alcohol monitoring system would address any concerns over alcohol use and the location monitor would address flight issues, Callahan told Schenectady County Court Judge Karen Drago.

A bail figure would also persuade Higgins to stay put, he said.

Drago last month denied bail for Higgins prior to her indictment by a grand jury, saying Higgins was the only defendant in her six years on the county court bench that she’d denied bail to for a Class E felony, the lowest level.

Higgins was indicted earlier this month on two felony drunken driving counts.

Higgins, of 1310 Palma Ave., is accused of driving drunk on March 2 on Route 5 in Scotia, losing control of the vehicle and striking a utility pole.

In denying Higgins bail the first time, Drago cited Higgins’ lengthy criminal history. She’s had eight drunken driving convictions spanning more than three decades and an incident in 2005 when Higgins fled felony probation to Florida and wasn’t caught for two months.

For that, Higgins served time in prison. The probation stemmed from one of her drunken driving convictions. Her last drunken driving conviction stemmed from an incident nearly 10 years ago.

Callahan argued that Higgins fled without having any bail to lose, only the threat of prison time. Should bail be allowed in the current case, Callahan said, it would be posted by her family.

“I think that maybe that would be the breaking point,” Callahan told Drago of her family posting bail, “that she wouldn’t have succumbed to last time, when she left the jurisdiction while on probation.”

Prosecutor Michael Tiffany, however, argued that there had been no change in circumstances to warrant a change in bail status.

Drago agreed with Tiffany. She also said she found Callahan’s argument disturbing, that prison time wasn’t a deterrent to Higgins but family posting bail would be.

“If, in fact, prison time was not a deterrent to someone not to abscond, that speaks volumes to this court for a whole host of reasons,” Drago said.

The case is now down for pretrial motions, with a decision on those motions due in late June.

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