Out of court

Friday, August 6, 2010

When Lawyers Get Arrested. . .

The arrest of a prominent attorney for DUI and her claim that she had a concussion and was not intoxicated reminds me of other attorneys or judges who have been arrested. You'd think, lawyers would know the drill: be nice, don't talk, ask for a lawyer.

More often than not, lawyers forget their training when arrested. That is, they try to talk their way out of trouble instead of shutting up and asking for a lawyer. In fact I heard of one lawyer, on his second DUI arrest, not only talked but he refused the breath test as well. Very dumb, as refusal is the worst option. It carries a one year revocation of license and juries later hear about and hold it against the accused.

Personally I have represented lawyers who were busted, most commonly for DUI. One lawyer was a perfect gentleman with a drinking problem. He was a public defender and had two separate DUI cases. For one we set up the treatment option, known as a deferred prosecution. This allows the case to remain pending for five years, and if the treatment is completed with no other arrests or alcohol violations, the case is dismissed. He was successful. On his other case, I managed to get it dismissed due to a speedy trial violation. He was quiet, unassuming and followed my advice.

Then there are the lawyers who talk themselves into trouble. I teach criminal trial advocacy at a local law school, and one of my former students hired me. He got arrested when a friend of his was being investigated for DUI. He had walked over to the scene of his friend's arrest and tried to intervene. He kept pushing his card into the officer's hand and tried to engage him in a conversation. The officer kept telling him to leave the scene of the investigation. Finally, after several warnings to leave, the officer arrested him for obstruction. This was a valid arrest, since for safety and other reasons, the police are entitled to be left alone when they are working a case. I had to beg the prosecutor for a dispositional continuance (good behavior, etc., and then case dismissed) by pointing out that he was still an over-exuberant law student.

A much less typical but amazing case was that of another law student. He was studying for a final exam and was disturbed by some teenagers riding dirt bikes in a vacant lot next to his apartment. He asked them to be quiet and they wouldn't. So he went back to his apartment and came down with a tiny keyring gun, that actually fired a real, but very small bullet. He pointed it in the air at the bike riders and they, being delinquents themselves, began yelling "felony, felony!" Within a few minutes he was arrested and booked for assault with a firearm. After I worked the case a bit, he pled to a misdemeanor assault and eventually had his record cleared.

Another time I represented an out of state lawyer on a hit and run charge. He told the police he never hit anyone and that is why he left the scene of the accident. Unfortunately there were matching dents on both cars, so he decided to pay for the damages. Foolishly I trusted this lawyer and used part of the trust account (my fees) to pay off the claim. He never paid me back. I never sued him on the debt because he was the type who would have counter sued me on some trumped up claim just to cause trouble.

The lawyers and judges who get arrested, plead and take their medicine like everyone else can be admirable. I know of a former prosecutor who had gone to a sporting event. Upon his return to his parked car, he discovered a tow truck driver had it jacked up and ready to go. He lost it with the tow truck driver and ended up punching him in the nose. He was arrested and charged with misdemeanor assault. He pled guilty at arraignment and then tendered his resignation as a prosecutor. The elected prosecutor refused to accept the resignation. I don't blame him--why fire a mensch?


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