The Ohio Supreme Court’s Board of Professional Conduct was urged on Jan. 10 to publicly reprimand a Lucas County judge who was convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol in July. The recommendation was made by the judge and the court’s disciplinary counsel. An Ohio Supreme Court justice who found herself in a similar position was reprimanded in 2005. A public reprimand would become part of the judge’s permanent record, but it would not prevent the judge from serving on the bench or seeking reelection.
When it makes its decision, the court is likely to be more concerned about statements the judge made prior to being taken into custody than the conduct that led to him being pulled over. Footage captured by a police car dashboard camera shows the judge attempting to use his position to secure more lenient treatment on four occasions. Police stopped the judge’s car in Findlay on July 21 shortly after it exited Interstate 75 for a lane violation and failing to signal. The officers involved said that the judge was extremely drunk when they pulled him over.
The judge’s attorney pointed out that his client subsequently accepted responsibility for his behavior and pleaded guilty to drunk driving. The judge was ordered to pay a $450 fine and sentenced to 30 days in jail with 23 days suspended. He avoided jail time by attending a victim impact panel and enrolling in a driver’s intervention program. He also lost his driving privileges for 12 months.
There is very little that a motorist could say to deter a police officer from making an OVI arrest, which is why experienced criminal defense attorneys may advise motorists who are pulled over to remain silent. Admissions or explanations made to police officers rarely improve the situation, but they might make it more difficult for attorneys to negotiate favorable plea agreements.