I was shocked by a recent article that described a driving under the influence of alcohol case in Howard County wherein a Howard County judge dismissed a DUI charge against a 22-year-old woman because the judge believed the police may have been operating under some instructions that sounded a lot like a "quota" system. The Howard County police responded that some federal grant money they had been given had some "strings," some requirements if you will, that when spelled out in an email sounded a lot like a quota system. But the police said they were not operating under a quota system. The judge dismissed the case.
Now, why does this case of legal tug-of-war shock me? Because in all this bickering between the judiciary and the police no one seemed to be concerned about the public safety.
This woman motorist was stopped for speeding and then arrested and charged with DUI when her blood alcohol level was found to be twice the legal limit. To release someone who is a potential threat to every other motorist on the road, is not just a travesty of justice, but is a complete abdication of a judge's responsibility to the people who elected her. The judge also opened a Pandora's box, because every defense lawyer in Howard County is now going to be claiming his or her client is the victim of a Howard County police quota system. I don't know how you get that genie back in the bottle.
If this was a borderline case, one might be able to use the quota argument, but when an individual "blows" twice the legal limit, that's not borderline. Putting her back on the road endangers everyone in Howard County.
I hope this judge realizes that by dismissing this case on a technicality she has put her fellow Howard County residents at great risk. I also hope none of us will have to pay the ultimate price because a judge wanted to make a legal point or engage in a game of legal one-up-manship with the police.
The police for their part should stop passing e-mails around that sound suspiciously like they are operating under a quota system. And let's put public safety above all this petty legal bickering.
Michael E. Britt