As it turns out, even judges can have one too many and make the unfortunate decision to get behind the wheel of a car. And when they do, they face the legal consequences of their actions like every other citizen. Here are several instances from around the country where a judge got a bit too tipsy and drove under the influence.
New Year's Eve is time to reflect on the year gone by and prepare for the year to come. Unfortunately, along with all the celebrations and champagne comes, unsurprisingly, a number of DUI arrests after some forget in their merriment that booze and driving is a toxic combination. On New Year's Eve a call came into police reporting a driver who had gotten into an accident on the side of a highway. The caller saw a car cross traffic lanes, hit a concrete wall, try to get back on the road, and then hit the same wall again. The car was driven by Lawrence J. Permuter, a St. Louis County Associate Circuit Judge. He was subsequently charged with "driving while intoxicated and failure to comply with the reasonable direction of an officer." It is not clear if or how his case has been resolved.
Alleghany County Common Pleas Court Judge Christine Ward was pulled over by Pennsylvania State Police trooper Daniel Beatty. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the police affidavit stated that the trooper had responded to "a report of an erratic driver headed south on Route 28." Police stated that Ward's breath "smelled strongly of alcohol," she had "bloodshot, watery eyes," and she had trouble standing up on her own. She admitted to having too much drink to the officer who pulled her over. Beatty had Ward perform a field sobriety test, but stopped her after she fell. When he took her to the hospital in order to obtain a blood sample, she refused to take the test.
She was arrested and subsequently charged with "misdemeanor DUI, as well as summary counts of careless driving, failure to drive on the right side of the road, failure to use turn signals and illegally stopping." In addition to the criminal charges she is facing, for refusing to take the blood test, Ward can face administrative consequences such as having her license suspended. She has a preliminary hearing in her case in August.
In New Jersey...
One judge in New Jersey tried to use his position to get out of a DUI. He quickly found that he was not going to get any special treatment, and in fact he was later censured by the state Supreme Court for his inappropriate behavior.
NJ.com reports that Dennis Baptista, a Phillipsburg Municipal Court Judge, was pulled over by a state trooper in 2014 "after a passing motorist reported Baptista was driving erratically." The trooper, Josh Ladao, observed him "swerve between lanes" before he pulled the judge over. Baptista was then asked to perform a field sobriety test, during which "the trooper noticed Baptista was moving slowly, slurring his speech and smelled of alcohol. Baptista was subsequently arrested and charged with "drunken driving and failure to maintain a lane," though the latter charge was later dismissed. As consequence for the DUI, Baptista's license was suspended for three months, was also ordered to "take classes at an intoxicated driver resource center and to pay an undisclosed penalty."
All during the stop, Baptista was asking questions such as, "You have some discretion here, don't you?." In addition, he stated, "I have a public official job that this will kill me." Because of this behavior, the New Jersey Supreme Court censured him for violating the Code of Judicial Conduct. In addition to being censured, Baptista cannot hear DUI cases for one year from May of 2016.
Contact a DUI Attorney Today
Judges are not above the law. They must face the consequences of their actions like every other citizen. If you or someone you know has been charged with driving under the influence, please do not hesitate to contact attorney Aaron Wolff today.