The New York Times reported last week on an incident in Maryland that combines distracted driving and drunk driving but has a particularly eyebrow-raising aspect to it: the alleged culprit is reported to be “an Episcopal bishop (who) got into her car, her blood-alcohol level far above the legal limit” and, while texting behind the wheel, is reported to have struck and killed a cyclist.
According to the newspaper, citing the State’s Attorney’s office in Baltimore, where the incident took place, the bishop allegedly left the scene of the accident, though she did return approximately half an hour later. “The state’s attorney for Baltimore City announced charges… including criminal negligent manslaughter, driving while impaired and texting, and leaving the scene of an accident,” the New York Times reported. Perhaps even more surprising is the revelation that the bishop had “a history of driving while intoxicated,” according to the newspaper.
As is always the case in situations like this, so many details concerning this fatal DUI bike accident are simply tragic. According to the Times, the alleged drunk driver had pled “guilty to driving under the influence in 2010.” As one might also expect there have been accusations that the case has received special treatment because of the prominent public position of the accused drunk driver, who is the number two official in the Episcopal Church in Maryland.
This situation highlights something I have often written about on this blog: the important role our courts play in leveling the playing field when the prominent and the powerful are involved in legal situations. My point is not whether the Bishop is guilty or not of the charges against her, but, rather, the fact that her prominent position must not grant her treatment different from what you or I would receive in a similar situation.
I often describe myself on this blog as an Oregon and Washington DUII and Distracted Driving lawyer, but the more important point is that I am an advocate: an advocate for people who might believe that the legal system is stacked against them, but who need to know that its most important function is to level the differences between rich and poor, between the powerful and the everyday Oregonian. Our courts are one of the most important institutions preserving our democracy. That requires that they remain independent both of political pressure and of social pressure, regardless of the title held by any particular defendant.
New York Times: The Bishop, the Cyclist and a Death on the Road