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Snowden gets probation, fine for impaired driving

Carl O. Snowden, an aide to the Anne Arundel County executive and a longtime political activist, was given probation before judgment yesterday by a judge in Annapolis who convicted him of impaired driving and related traffic counts.

District Judge John P. McKenna placed Snowden, 50, on a year's probation and fined him $250 for driving while impaired, negligent driving and not following the white lines on U.S. 50 outside Annapolis in November. McKenna said the punishment is fairly standard for a first-time alcohol-related traffic offense.

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The outcome gives Snowden, who said he had not been drinking before getting behind the wheel, no opportunity to appeal. However, if he successfully completes probation, he can ask the court to erase the conviction.

Snowden, a former Annapolis alderman and frequent spokesman for the city's African-American community, is an assistant to County Executive Janet S. Owens.

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His political activism and government posts had an effect on his case. Because Snowden has worked with the county state's attorney's office, officials brought in an outside prosecutor.

Snowden sought yesterday to have his case moved to Prince George's County because he knows most of the Anne Arundel County judges and lobbied last year for another candidate to fill what now is McKenna's seat on the bench.

McKenna, however, said he didn't know Snowden and didn't know anything about his lobbying efforts until they were mentioned yesterday. After conferring with James W. Dryden, administrative judge for the county District Court, McKenna decided against moving the case or bringing a judge from another county to hear it.

The prosecutor, Talbot County Assistant State's Attorney Ellen Barry Grunden, dropped the most serious charge, drunken driving. She said she did not think enough evidence existed to pursue it. Also, she said, it was the only one of the four charges that would have enabled Snowden to obtain a jury trial in Circuit Court, which would have allowed him to renew the request to move the trial.

"I am glad the state dropped the most serious charge," Snowden said after the half-hour trial. "I maintain my innocence of the alcohol charge."

Snowden's lawyer, Alan H. Legum, argued against the alcohol charge, contending that there was nothing that proved his client's erratic driving was not due to lack of sleep.

The charges stem from a traffic stop around 1:50 a.m. Nov. 27, after Anne Arundel County police Officer James Lewis noticed an eastbound car weaving on U.S. 50 near the South River.

Snowden, Lewis testified, responded to the officer's emergency lights by stopping in the far right traffic lane and turning his lights off. Later, when Snowden rolled down the car window, Lewis said, "there was an odor of alcohol." He said Snowden told him he had not been drinking and was returning from a meeting in Washington.

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Lewis said Snowden failed field sobriety tests.

Snowden refused to take a breath test. Motor Vehicle Administration records show Snowden's driver's license was suspended in February for that refusal. The suspension ended this month.


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