Archive for February 15th, 2005

Another Prosecutor Gets Special Treatment

Tuesday, February 15th, 2005

I’ve posted a number of comments recently about the favored treatment received by police, prosecutors and judges when arrested for DUI — usually, a quiet dismissal of charges. When publicity sometimes precludes this option, the individual may have to answer the charges. But go to jail? Never. Consider a recent story about a Tampa, Florida, prosecutor who was charged with DUI as a felony:

Pinellas DUI prosecutor pleads to own drunk driving charge

TAMPA, Fla. Associated Press A Pinellas County prosecutor known for being tough on drunk drivers will serve probation and lecture school children on the dangers of drinking and driving to settle her own DUI case.

Lydia Dempsey Wardell was arrested in November after she drove the wrong way on a street and was involved in a minor accident. Her two young sons were in the car with her, and police measured her blood alcohol at nearly three times the legal limit for drunk driving.Wardell was sentenced Wednesday after a plea agreement which reduced the drunk driving and culpable negligence charges against her to misdemeanors.

Wardell will serve 18 months probation, and complete other tasks such as spending time on a sheriff’s road crew picking up trash and at least 10 hours of speaking to children. Officials said her punishment is similar to those imposed on other first-time DUI offenders….

"Similar to those imposed on other first-time DUI offenders"? Are they serious? Here we have a person arrested for drunk driving with two children in the car, after an accident, and with a blood-alcohol of about .23% (incidentally, a common indicator of an alcoholic). In most states, an accident will usually increase the jail sentence; a sky-high breath test nearly triple the legal limit definitely will; and exposing kids to all of this is called "child endangerment" and may result in felony charges, as apparently happened here — punishable by state prison. All-in-all, this person gets a very long stretch in jail.

Ms. Wardell, with her reputation for "being tough on drunk drivers", had the felony reduced to a misdemeanor and was only asked to pick up some trash and talk to kids for a few hours. That is known in the trade as a "Santa Claus deal". But then these are reserved for police, prosecutors and judges — those, that is, who are unlucky enough to be arrested by an honest cop in the first place.

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