Update: Senator Crapo pleads guilty to DUI

Senator Michael Crapo; photo AP/Evan Vucci

Senator Michael Crapo; photo AP/Evan Vucci

Well, that was fast.  Less than two weeks after being arrested in Alexandria, Virginia, Senator Michael Crapo of Idaho plead guilty to DUI.

From the Hill:

Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) pleaded guilty on Friday to driving under the influence.

Crapo made the plea in a Virginia court and was fined $250 and had his driver’s license suspended for a year, according to The Associated Press.

The senator from Idaho is also required to participate in an alcohol safety program. Crapo will reportedly not have to serve a 180-day jail sentence if his behavior is good.

According to CBS:

After the verdict was announced, Crapo told CBS News’ Tolleah Price that, contrary to earlier reports, he was drinking vodka with tonic water, not straight vodka. He took a drive to “try to wind down,” eventually turned around to head home, and was pulled over by police on his way home. He said that he had “on occasion had alcoholic drinks in my apartment” over the last few months, and that he is deeply embarrassed by his “poor choice” and the disappointment it has caused among his family, his constituents, and those who share his Mormon faith.

I don’t know how they practice DUI defense in Alexandria, Virginia, but in Cook County (or DuPage, Lake, Kane or anywhere else that I have practiced) it is verging on the edge of legal malpractice to plead a DUI case so quickly.

When I represent a DUI defendant, I want to first review all the discovery.  This includes not only the all the police reports and arrest and booking videos (if there are any), but also all the breath testing records (including calibration tests) to ensure that the breath test result was obtained properly with a device that complied with all applicable regulations and satisfy myself that the prosecution will be able to meet their burden of proof to lay the necessary foundation prior to the admission of the breath test result into evidence at trial.

In some cases, I would need to do additional investigation, such as talking to witnesses and seeking to obtain video from third parties.  For example, I won one case through the use of a convenience store surveillance video.

One of the best pieces of advice that I received when I was new attorney came from a seasoned veteran.  He told me not to be a pilgrim.  I had no idea what he was talking about, until he clarified and said “don’t be an early settler.”  While he was talking about a personal injury case, the same advice applies to a criminal case as well.  You can’t make an informed decision until you know all the facts and what the evidence will be.  Even a case that appears hopeless at first might have a serious weakness once an attorney scrutinizes the evidence.  Sometimes this means that the case will dismissed or that the prosecution will agree to a lesser charge.

Once I have gone through all the evidence, and if we then decide that my client will plead guilty, I would still want to position him or her for the best possible sentence.  In Illinois, this requires that he or she complete an alcohol and drug evaluation prior to the sentencing date.  This alone can take more than four weeks to schedule and complete.  I would also want to gather up as much mitigation evidence as I can, such as letters attesting to my client’s good character.

So why did Senator Crapo plead guilty so quickly?  My guess is that this was not a legal decision, but a political decision.  The sooner that this story gets resolved, the quicker the public will forget about it.  The Senator is not up for reelection for another four years, so he has time to lay low for a while, then go on a public apology tour, where he will inevitably talk about how he went through some tough times that tested his character.  Now that he has been through his long, dark journey, his faith has is stronger than ever, blah, blah blah.

I know nothing about Idaho politics, so this is pure conjecture on my part, but my guess is that most voters who were inclined to vote for him before this will vote for him again, so long as he does the apology tour and doesn’t get caught drinking again.  In four years this will be a barely remembered news story compared to whatever the hot political issues are at the moment.  People are inclined to give someone a break, especially when it someone like Senator Crapo, who as far as I know, has never had a blemish on his record up to this point.  The only question for me is where will he do his “tell all” interview?  With Greta?  Barbara? or maybe he will think outside the box and go on a religious show to confess his sins.

What do you think?

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