Anybody who consumes more than a modest amount of alcohol and then gets behind the wheel risks being arrested for drunk driving, and the list of people who have been charged with DUI in California includes teachers, police officers and even judges. When drunk driving cases that involve judges are scrutinized, several commonalities become apparent. Judges often try to intimidate police officers into not arresting them by making it very clear what they do for a living, they usually plead no contest in court, and they rarely face the kind of consequences that a person who does not preside over trials would face.
At least three California Superior Court judges have pleaded no contest to drunk driving charges since 2005. When defendants plead no contest, or nolo contendere, they do not admit or deny their guilt. This plea is normally entered by defendants who fear being sued in civil court or are worried about the ramifications that a guilty plea could have on their careers.
No jail time
A notable California DUI case involved a Superior Court judge who was arrested after losing control of her vehicle and crashing in 2005. Toxicology testing revealed that she had a blood alcohol concentration that was more than double the 0.08% legal limit at the time. The judge was admonished by the Commission on Judicial Performance for trying to use her office to escape a drunk driving charge, but she did not spend a single day in jail. She earned a reputation for handing down the severest sentences the law allows to DUI offenders, but she avoided jail time in her case by enrolling in a work-release program.
While these judges may not have faced harsh penalties for driving drunk, their reputations were tarnished and their legal careers were compromised. They serve as a reminder that the consequences of a DUI conviction often go beyond fines, driver’s license suspensions and jail time.