Friday, November 10, 2006

 

Were the Montgomery County Police trying to frame our future Governor?...perhaps to help Doug Duncan?

Police Report On O'Malley DUI Released yesterday and it turns out the Montgomery County police officers involved in Martin O’Malley’s drunk driving arrest must have lied on their police reports. How do I know? Because the police reports clearly indicate that the Governor-elect refused any test (which was his right). But he assures us that:

“When asked about the report noting that he refused a breathalyzer test, O'Malley said "Actually I didn't...it happened 20 years ago...and if I had refused I would certainly have a record of that suspension.

“Later, the mayor's staff clarified O'Malley's comment saying, "If he in fact had declined the breathalyzer then his license would have been suspended for six months and his license was not suspended for six months."

As it is, I have been involved in a fair number of drunk-driving cases – no, not for that…as Defense Counsel!! I admit not being familiar with 1987 laws and regulations but do know the rules are stricter now than they were then.

As to the suspension: Yes, a refusal can get you a suspension but…a first time refusal nowadays only gets you a 4-month (120 days) suspension, not six months. And you have the right to request an administrative hearing before such a suspension can go into effect (but if you don’t request one, the suspension is automatic after a period of time). At an administrative hearing, if the state fails to produce all the required paperwork or the officer’s presence was requested and he doesn’t show, then a suspension will not be imposed. Don’t know what the rules were back then but I doubt they were stricter as to DUI punishment. If I’m wrong, someone please correct me.

So the absence of a suspension doesn’t necessarily vindicate the Mayor or prove the officer was lying on his reports. But…was Martin O’Malley pulled over at 4:55 in the morning with alcohol on his breath, put through a series of field sobriety tests, arrested and brought to the station, only to NOT have a sobriety test offered? Because this is what we are faced with:

1. Martin O’Malley had nothing to drink (as the police report states he said), was unfairly put through a field sobriety test, was unfairly deemed to have failed those tests and accordingly, unfairly arrested. It was only at the station then that justice prevailed and the future Governor was released to the custody of his father without even being asked to go through the ignominy of a breathalyzer test.

2. Martin O’Malley had three beers (also as the police report states he said), was put through a field sobriety test, was deemed to have failed those tests and accordingly, arrested. Once they got to the station though, the police never bothered to try to get a breathalyzer although they took the time to twice note his refusal to take one.

3. Martin O’Malley was indeed driving drunk and the arrest went down as the police report indicates.

Mr. O’Malley comes across as if he can barely remember this event – after all it was twenty years ago. But this Mayor came out of the womb running for office and it simply doesn’t pass the sniff test that he is foggy on the details (unless of course he really was foggy at the time). Anyone with his ambitions would surely remember such a potentially career-derailing moment. And the legal machinations that followed. And the mental squirming that must have gone on in deciding how to report it on a Bar application.

“O’Malley was later found not guilty, after a motion to suppress evidence was granted by the judge.”

I don’t know what evidence was suppressed or on what grounds the motion was granted. My experience is that such motions are preliminary and, losing such a motion, the state will usually fold its cards and not prosecute. Which is not the same as a “Not Guilty”. Again, I wasn’t there and maybe the case did proceed but it’s not like the state to attempt to prosecute without the necessary evidence.

Martin O’Malley’s memory lapses and a careful parsing of a lack of suspension have made this a bigger story than it should have been. Our future Governor was 24, arrested and got off. Congratulations. Whether he was indeed innocent or just benefited from a police mistake or is an example of what privilege can bring, our conclusion as to which can only come from our assessment of the actors in this story…and I have a lot of respect for the Montgomery County Police – then and now.

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