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Del. Dwyer charged with driving under the influence

ElectionsJustice SystemFirearmsMichael E. Busch

State lawmakers on both sides of the aisle called for Del. Don Dwyer Jr. to reassess his personal and political lives after the three-term Republican was charged with drunken driving Tuesday — months after pleading guilty to operating a boat while drunk last summer.

On Tuesday, House Speaker Michael E. Busch, an Annapolis Democrat, called Dwyer's conduct "unbecoming of a legislator."

And fellow Republican Del. Ron George called on Dwyer to "resign and get help."

The Anne Arundel delegate was driving eastbound on Route 100 at 12:42 a.m. Tuesday when a police officer saw the vehicle swerving erratically, according to a police report. Dwyer was pulled over and, after struggling with field sobriety tests, was arrested.

"Thankfully, no one in the vehicle was harmed and no other motorists were harmed," said Justin Mulcahy, a spokesman for Anne Arundel police.

Last summer, Dwyer was charged with operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol after an accident that injured several people. He pleaded guilty and appealed a 30-day jail sentence. He is scheduled to be resentenced in that case in October.

Dwyer, 55, said he planned to run for re-election despite the boating incident.

On Tuesday, he did not respond to messages left on his cellphone and at his home in Pasadena. David Fischer, an attorney who represents Dwyer, declined to comment.

The drunken-driving charge is considered a misdemeanor. If convicted, Dwyer would not be required to resign.

According to the police report, Dwyer's gold, four-door 2001 Cadillac DeVille was doing 70 mph in a 55 mph zone along Route 100, and swerved back and forth across the road at least four times in a two-mile stretch.

After being pulled over, Dwyer told the officer he was coming from Baltimore, where he had had two beers. The officer smelled alcohol and said Dwyer had red, glassy eyes and slurred when he spoke, according to the report.

In field sobriety tests, the delegate struggled with coordination and balance tests, the report said.

At the police station in Pasadena, Dwyer declined to take a breath test. He was taken before a District Court commissioner, who released him on his own recognizance. Police also found that his vehicle registration had expired and had been suspended for failure to comply with state emissions laws.

Dwyer was charged with infractions that included driving while impaired by alcohol, reckless driving and displaying expired tags, according to online court records.

Del. Nicholaus R. Kipke, the House minority leader and a fellow Pasadena resident, issued a statement with fellow Republican and House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga saying they were "grateful that the police were able to intervene before anyone was harmed. We urge Delegate Dwyer to seek treatment immediately."

Del. Steven R. Schuh, a Republican who chairs Anne Arundel's House delegation and represents the same district, said he hopes Dwyer seeks treatment.

"I'm obviously concerned about Delegate Dwyer's health," Schuh said. "He's publicly acknowledged within the last year his struggles with alcohol and depression."

Busch, who presides over the 141-member House of Delegates, criticized Dwyer for his "conduct and indiscretion" but said the arrest does not alter his status as a member of the General Assembly.

"Delegate Dwyer's future in the legislature will be decided by his own conscience as he considers whether he can effectively represent his constituents or, ultimately, by the voters of District 31," Busch said.

At the start of January's legislative session, Busch moved Dwyer from the House Judiciary Committee to the Ways and Means Committee after the drunken-boating charge related to a crash on the Magothy River last August. Dwyer's 27-foot powerboat, the Legislator, collided with another boat, landing several people in the hospital, including Dwyer.

In May, Dwyer pleaded guilty in Anne Arundel District Court to drunken boating and was sentenced to 30 days in jail, a $1,000 fine and a year of supervised probation, but he appealed. In Circuit Court this month, he again pleaded guilty, but his attorney said Dwyer hoped to avoid jail time.

After Dwyer's plea this month, a spokesman for the Howard County state's attorney's office, which prosecuted the case, said the judge plans to examine documentation of Dwyer's alcohol rehabilitation and statements from crash victims. The office declined to comment Tuesday.

Shortly after the boat crash, Dwyer acknowledged that he had been drinking and apologized. Wearing a neck brace and sitting in a wheelchair outside the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, he said, "I deeply regret my actions and ask for your forgiveness."

In January, Dwyer posted a letter to supporters on his Facebook page, saying he had been facing difficult personal and professional challenges and turned to alcohol to cope. He said he voluntarily completed an alcohol intervention program and was committed to counseling and attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

Tuesday's arrest came on the heels of an unrelated incident Sunday in which Dwyer was the victim of an assault by a neighbor, according to another police report. The neighbor was arrested after he ordered his dog to attack Dwyer, the report said.

In June, Dwyer was cited for crabbing on a Wednesday, which is prohibited. Online court records show he paid a $125 fine.

Dwyer was first elected to the House in 2002, representing District 31, which includes Pasadena, Gibson Island, Brooklyn Park and part of Glen Burnie. Dwyer is paid a salary of $43,500 a year as a legislator.

One of the most conservative members of the House, Dwyer has made his mark fighting against same-sex marriage, gun control and benefits for illegal immigrants.

Dwyer briefly considered running for state Senate, but instead said he'll run for delegate in 2014. In July, he held a raffle of AR-15 and AK-47 assault-type rifles to support his campaign.

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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