Principal cops plea in drunken driving arrest

David Zimbler

Riverhead High School principal David Zimbler pleaded guilty Thursday to a reduced charge of driving while ability impaired in county court in Central Islip. He was fined $500 and his driver’s license was suspended for 90 days.

The 39-year-old Mr. Zimbler lives in Commack and has been Riverhead High School principal since 2007. He was charged with two counts of driving while intoxicated and one count of failure to stay in his lane on a Long Island Expressway service road in Brentwood on June 13, 2008.

County Court Judge John Toomey Jr. dismissed those charges Thursday and allowed Mr. Zimbler to plead guilty to driving while ability impaired, a lesser charge than DWI.

The sentence requires Mr. Zimbler to participate in a panel discussion sponsored by a Stop-DWI program that includes students from Suffolk County schools, according to Bob Clifford, a spokesman for District Attorney Thomas Spota. The charge will be erased from Mr. Zimbler’s record if he isn’t arrested again for a year, Mr. Clifford said.

“All the original charges were dismissed and I was issued a traffic violation,” Mr. Zimbler said Friday.

Mr. Zimbler said the suspension of his license would not jeopardize his getting to work because he is still allowed to drive to and from his job. The court noted that this was his first offense.

Under New York State law, driving while ability impaired is considered a traffic infraction and carries fines of between $300 and $500 or a maximum of 15 days in jail. Driving while intoxicated, as a first offense, is a misdemeanor and carries fines of between $500 and $1,000 or up to one year in jail.

A blood alcohol reading of .08 percent or more triggers a DWI charge; DWAI can be charged with a reading of between .06 and .08. Police traditionally issue two counts of DWI on each DWI arrest, one based on the blood alcohol level and one based on the officer’s observation.

The Board of Education two years ago delayed Mr. Zimbler’s tenure by a year in the wake of the arrest, and also required him to participate in an employee assistance program and in community service at the time.

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