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DV Pilot police & fire

Fair Lawn hit-and-run DWI driver was only just released from jail — for DWI

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo

EXCLUSIVE: A “severely intoxicated” Old Tappan woman who Fair Lawn police said had to be pulled from her SUV when she tried to elude officers following a hit-and-run had only just been released from jail for a DWI conviction, CLIFFVIEW PILOT has learned.

Ava Cifaldi, a 44-year-old Canadian citizen, was sentenced to the nine-day term following a conviction for an Oct. 5 DWI arrest in Old Tappan, records show. She was sentenced on Dec. 4 and released last Friday.

Five days later, she was in trouble again.

As CLIFFVIEW PILOT reported Wednesday night, Cifaldi fled a crash on on Route 208 earlier in the day, then turned around and headed south on the highway before exiting at Fair Lawn Avenue – all while being chased by the driver of the other car, according to Fair Lawn police.

Hearing the alert from Central Bergen Communications in neighboring Glen Rock, Sgt. Lonnie Mergler ran to his cruiser.

“It was perfect timing,” Mergler told CLIFFVIEW PILOT hours after the arrest. “As soon as I got onto Fair Lawn Avenue, her vehicle was right in front of me.”

SEE: Fair Lawn police sergeant corners DWI hit-and-run driver

Mergler said he activated his overhead lights and got out, but Cifaldi swerved her 2011 Nissan Rogue around his cruiser, her car’s mirror whacking his elbow as she drove up on the sidewalk. The sergeant said he got back into his cruiser and chased Cifaldi two blocks to River Road, where she got stuck in traffic at a red light.

He said he maneuvered his cruiser in front of her SUV, stopping it and trapping her. Other officers arrived, and all ordered her out. However, “she was just focused on getting out of there,” Mergler said.

Eventually, they had to smash the window and pull her out, he said.

Police said they found two bottles of vodka and beer inside the vehicle.

Cifaldi was taken to Bergen Regional Medical Center for detoxification while police processed these charges:

  • Aggravated assault to a law enforcement officer;
  • Eluding;
  • Operating a motor vehicle during a DWI license suspension;
  • Driving while intoxicated;
  • Suspended license;
  • Suspended registration;
  • Uninsured vehicle;
  • Reckless driving;
  • Careless driving;
  • Leaving the scene of a motor vehicle crash;
  • Failure to report a motor vehicle crash;
  • Failure to exhibit documents;
  • Failure to comply to an officer’s directions;
  • Driving on a sidewalk;
  • Open alcoholic container in a motor vehicle.

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