www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/bs-md-ar-snowden-appeal-20121212,0,6182278.story

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Md. civil rights chief Snowden loses drunken-driving appeal

Conviction, suspended sentence upheld

By Andrea F. Siegel, The Baltimore Sun

7:19 PM EST, December 12, 2012

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The civil rights director of the Maryland attorney general's office has lost an appeal of his drunken-driving case, with the state's second-highest court allowing the conviction and suspended sentence that replaced an illegal outcome to stand.

Carl O. Snowden, a former Annapolis alderman, had contended before the Court of Special Appeals that an Anne Arundel County judge was wrong to take away the original probation before judgment he received on a 2010 charge of driving while impaired. The sentence could have given Snowden the opportunity to avoid a conviction if he met court conditions.

It was the second probation before judgment granted to Snowden in less than a decade, and the prosecutor and judge belatedly learned it was illegal under a 2009 change in state law that limits probation before judgment for drunken driving to one every 10 years. Before the law change, it was allowed every five years.

Judge Ronald Silkworth replaced the probation before judgment last year with a conviction, and the suspended jail term with three years on probation.

The charges were filed after an Anne Arundel police officer reported seeing Snowden's car weaving in the southbound lanes of Interstate 97 near Farm Road in Crownsville on June 8, 2010. Officials said Snowden's blood-alcohol level was 0.09 percent.

He had received probation before judgment in a 2003 drunken-driving case. Among the arguments made by his attorney, Cary Hansel, was that when Snowden received that probation, the one-in-five-years rule was the law, and that the altered ruling unfairly changes the first sentence.

A 2005 drunken-driving charge was dismissed.

The ruling comes less than a month after a Baltimore City jury convicted Snowden of marijuana possession. He was sentenced a 60-day suspended jail term and a year on probation.

Snowden referred comment Wednesday to Hansel, who said he plans to ask the state's highest court to hear an appeal.

"We very respectfully disagree with the court's analysis," Hansel said.

andrea.siegel@baltsun.com

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