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Cops: Wantagh nun charged with drunken driving

Lauren Hanley, who got drunk at church, drove

Lauren Hanley, who got drunk at church, drove while intoxicated and hit a tree, prosecutors said. (Sept. 1, 2009) Photo Credit: NCPD

A Wantagh nun arrested on drunken driving charges had twice the legal limit for alcohol in her blood when she got into a church-owned car and careened into a tree, police and prosecutors said Thursday.

Sister Lauren M. Hanley, 68, had a bottle of liquor in the car and a blood-alcohol level of 0.18 when she was arrested after the accident Tuesday evening, after she left work at St. Frances de Chantal Church in Wantagh, said Nassau prosecutors.

The church's Web site lists her as spiritual development director. She could not be reached for comment.

She told police she'd been drinking at the church starting about 3 that afternoon, prosecutors said. Court records show she admitted to police that she drank a half pint of gin.

Hanley was charged with two misdemeanors - driving while intoxicated and aggravated driving while intoxicated - and one infraction for driving an uninspected vehicle.

She hit the tree about 6:30 p.m. on Hawthorne Drive West, just south of Jerusalem Avenue, in Wantagh, sending the car Hanley was driving to the opposite side of the street, facing the wrong direction, police said.

"When the officers get there, they detect a strong odor of alcoholic beverage on her breath, slurred speech and bloodshot eyes," said police spokesman Det. Sgt. Anthony Repalone.

In the car's backseat, cops found a plastic water bottle with a small amount of liquid that they said smelled like alcohol. Court records said Hanley acknowledged she had been drinking gin out of the bottle.

Mary Lyons, who lives near the accident scene, said her grandchildren Alex Stein, 10, Samantha Stein, 14, and Zachary Stein, 2, were playing ball outside as Hanley came barreling through the neighborhood.

In a statement, Rockville Centre Diocese spokesman Sean Dolan said: "During this very difficult moment we pray that the Lord give her strength to endure this difficult time so that she may continue to be of service to her congregation, the Sisters of St. Joseph and the Catholic Church of Long Island."

Hanley has no previous DWI convictions. She was released into her own custody and is due back in court Friday.

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