"...When this happens to elected officials and they choose to drive under the influence, that just shows the public how prevalent the problem is…” -- Eloisa Orocco, executive director, MADD San Diego County.
By Miriam Raftery
August 1, 2011 (Sacramento)—Assemblyman Republican Martin Garrick, whose name has been floated as a potential candidate in a redrawn State Senate District that includes much of San Diego’s East County, has been sentenced on drunk driving charges in Sacramento. Garrick pled no contest to driving with a blood alcohol content nearly twice the legal limit.
The Assemblyman, whose district currently includes portions of North County and coastal area, loses his driver’s license for four months and must perform 48 hours of community service. In addition, he must spend 30 hours at an alcohol treatment program and pay $2,416 in fines and fees.
Three California Highway Patrol officers have reported that they saw Garrick speed past a stop sign and red traffic lights, failing to stop until officers followed him to the Capitol garage. He was arrested but released the same night, reportedly because he was ill and vomiting at the Sacramento jail. Garrick’s attorney has indicated his client had stomach flu. He was driven home from jail by an Assembly sergeant-at-arms.
Garrick has issued an apology, stating that “I have accepted responsibility for my actions and apologized to family, friends and constituents,” the Sacramento Bee reported July 29. “I will now take the necessary steps to resolve this incident and immediately begin the process of complying with the judgment.”
Did Garrick receive favorable treatement?
Michael Crowley, past president of the San Diego Criminal Defense Bar Association, says, “It doesn’t sound like he got any particular breaks.” Penalties vary depending on the County, whether the crime was a first offense, and the blood alcohol level. For example, in San Diego a blood alcohol of .15 to under .20 would trigger mandatory sentencing guidelines including five days of community service, however the driver could get a restricted license after one month with a three to five year probation.
Crowley found the no contest plea unusual, however. ““There’s usually no reason to plead no contest unless there’s an accident involved,” he said, noting that a no contest plea can avoid having a guilty plea used in a civil suit for damages. “There’s still this psyche all the way back to Nixonian times [Spiro Agnew’s plea] that a no contest plea somehow means something.”
In fact, he said, in san Diego defendants must “check off a box and sign that they understand a no contest plea is the same as a guilty plea.”
Eloise Orocco, executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, could not comment on whether the sentence was equivalent to the average first-time drunk driving offender. But she observed, “We want people to be held accountable regardless of what their position is; when this happens to elected officials and they choose to drive under the influence, that just shows the public how prevalant the problem is.”