Above The Law

We all know how Congress routinely exempts its members from many of the laws it imposes on us peasants. A most egregious example it the exemption they carved out for themselves from having to participate in Obamacare. While the rest of will have to pass through Obama’s death panels [euphemistically called “independent Payment Advisory Panels” or “IPAB”] before we can obtain treatment and are likely to be refused if we are deemed to be too old or the treatment too expensive. Since we all get old and Obamacare is likely to make all treatment more expensive it’s a self-fulfilling proposition. Laws are for the little people, our betters in Congress will keep their Congressional health “insurance” which is in reality free and abundant health care on demand with no relation to any rational definition of insurance.

Another particularly outrageous example of a favored class being given special treatment is the widespread practice of police giving a free ride home to other cops found to be driving drunk. Anyone else found driving with a blood alcohol level 3 times the legal limit would be arrested and prosecuted and subjected to all the numerous and severe collateral consequences of a DUI conviction. Denver police officer Jesse M. Sandoval thinks DUI laws don’t apply to him. So he naturally expected the usual “professional courtesy” when he drove his Jeep Cherokee off the road in the 200 block of Wildernest Road in Silverthorne, Colorado just after 8 p.m. on Feb. 17, 2010. According to this news story from a week ago, officer Sandoval became irate when a Silverthorne officer decided to treat him the same as any other drunk on the road. He berated the Silverthorne officers for not respecting the brother-officer code and letting him just go home and sober up. His speech was slurred, he was unstable, and he smelled of alcohol. His BAC was later determined to be 3 times the legal limit, about .24. The legal limit is .08 for DUI, and in Colorado .05 will get you 8 points on your driver’s license and a conviction for the lesser offense of Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI). Even that lesser conviction carries collateral consequences such a sky-high insurance rates for several years, because it is still an alcohol related offense.

Officer Sandoval did receive some degree of preferential treatment, just not quite as much as he wanted. If one of us commoners gets arrested for driving with a BAC as high as Officer Sandoval’s we would face some mandatory jail time and a suspension of our drivers’ license for 3 months. Officer Sandoval received 30 days of electronic monitoring, 48 hours of community service and 12-months probation. No jail time, no license suspension.

The Denver Police Department did impose discipline of a 26-day probation period. No loss of pay was mentioned. Lawyers in Colorado, who have nothing to do with enforcement of any law, are typically suspended from the practice of law for 30 days or more for a first time DUI. This is one of those collateral consequences that can be particularly onerous. No only does a suspended lawyer lose his or her ability to earn income during that period, their earning capacity may be affected for a much longer period. They are required to inform all of their clients of their suspension and the reason therefore. Many time clients cannot simply put their case on hold during the period of their attorney’s suspension so they are forced to obtain new counsel. This may impose a hardship on the innocent client as well as the suspended lawyer, and having obtained new counsel the suspended lawyer will probably not get that client back later when the suspension period is over. Thus, the loss of earning power usually extends beyond the period of suspension.

Officer Sandoval was not punished in any way for his truly bad conduct — trying to use his position as an officer of the law to escape arrest and conviction for driving with a BAC of 3 times the legal limit, an offense for which he would have vigorously arrested anyone else. As the marquee signs the Colorado Department of Transportation likes to erect along the interstate highways say, “Over the limit under arrest” for you and me.

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