Kerry Kennedy found not guilty of DWI

It only took a New York jury a little over an hour to acquit Kerry Kennedy of the driving while under the influence of medication charge. Her defense was that she accidentally took a sleeping pill by mistake.  This type of defense is not permitted in Illinois.

From CNN:

Kennedy testified this week that she grabbed the wrong prescription bottle from her kitchen counter that morning and swallowed 10 milligrams of zolpidem, a sleep aid also known by the brand name Ambien. Neither she nor prosecutors disputed the fact that she drove erratically after taking the medication and sideswiped a tractor-trailer in Westchester County before she was found, slumped over her steering wheel, her car stalled.

“I now know thanks to the tox lab that I must have taken the sleeping medication by mistake,” said Kennedy, looking at the jury as she testified.

Kennedy said she made cappuccino, had some carrots, prepared bags for the gym and office and had no problem leaving her apartment and getting to her vehicle the morning of the accident.

Her memory from that morning ends just before she entered the highway, Kennedy said. The next thing she recalls is a knock on the window of her SUV, and a man she thought was a police officer asking if she was OK.

“I was confused by that because I thought I was fine,” she said on the stand.

During a contentious cross examination, Kennedy insisted that she would not have stayed behind the wheel if she’d felt the effects of the medication.

“If I’d realized I was impaired, I would have pulled over,” she told prosecutor Doreen Lloyd, and also said she doesn’t know what the side effects of zolpidem might feel like.

“You’ve taken this pill for 10 years and you can’t tell me whether or not it makes you feel tired after you take it?” Lloyd asked.

“I guess I don’t really think about how I’m feeling when I take it,” Kennedy replied. “I take it, and then I’m asleep.”

Amanda Bynes DUI case is reduced to reckless in return for plea

Nearly two years after her DUI arrest, Amanda Bynes’ case was resolved without a trial.

According to TMZ, Bynes plead guilty to the reduced charge of reckless driving, and was sentenced to three years of probation, alcohol education classes and fines.

This week in Celebrity, Musician and NFL DUIs

There was a lot of celebrity/musician and football related DUI news in the past few days, so I will round them up the links here:

Bill to end lifetime license revocations advances through House Committee

The bill that would end the “lifetime license revocation” for anyone convicted of four DUIs has made it through a major hurdle — getting out of House Transportation Committee.

Elise Dismer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports on her blog:

SPRINGFIELD-Legislation giving Illinoisans with four DUI convictions another chance to get back on the road moved through a House committee Wednesday with backing from a prominent anti-drunk-driving organization.

By an 8-3 vote, the House Transportation: Vehicles & Safety Committee signed off on House Bill 4206, which would let four-time drunk-driving offenders apply for a restricted driving permit five years after their last offense—so long as they have logged three years of uninterrupted sobriety and a successful rehabilitation record.

“I believe in giving people a chance,” said Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook, the bill’s chief House sponsor. “For someone who’s truly turned their life around, we ought to be giving them opportunities.”

Under existing state law, anyone with four or more drunk-driving convictions faces a lifetime revocation of their driving privileges…

Nekritz’s bill also drew support from a police officer from northwestern Illinois.

Lt. Donnie Pridemore, of the Fulton Police Department, testified in support of the bill, saying he’s seen people—including his own alcoholic brother—turn their lives around.

“For those who have proven they have numerous years of sobriety, who have become productive members of society, and who don’t pose a threat to themselves or other drivers out there, they do deserve a chance to have independence—to drive to work, to drive to meetings—and they’ve earned that privilege,” Pridemore said.

But Nekritz’s opportunity comes with conditions: Those who obtain a restricted driving permit under her legislation must also drive a vehicle equipped with an ignition interlock device, which would affirm their identity through video technology and prevent them from driving without initially passing a breathalyzer.

Nekritz’s bill bars anyone convicted of a DUI-related crash resulting in a fatality from applying for the permit.

Rita Kreslin, executive director of the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists, said she supported the legislation in light of the permit eligibility requirements listed in the bill. Her group did not testify Wednesday…

The Chicago Bar Association’s Judicial Candidate Evaluations have been released

The March primaries are almost upon us, and the Chicago Bar Association has released its Judicial Evaluations.

From the CBA’s website:

March 18, 2014 Primary Election:

The Association’s Judicial Evaluation Committee (JEC) invites you to view its evaluation of judicial candidates seeking election to vacancies on the Illinois Appellate Court and the Circuit Court of Cook County in the upcoming Primary Election to be held Tuesday, March 18, 2014. Please take this information with you to your polling place and remember to vote the Judicial Ballot. Also, feel free to share our findings with your friends, relatives and colleagues.

 We urge you to vote for judicial candidates seeking election found Qualified or Highly Qualified.

View our complete findings in the Green Guide to Judicial Candidates.

View a two-page, printable Pocket Guide (take this quick guide with you to vote).

Get the Pocket Guide on your smart phone at http://m.chicagobar.org/.

As you may know, I am a member of the CBA’s Judicial Evaluation Committee, so let me tell you a little about how we come to our findings:

Each candidate is asked to complete a lengthy questionnaire about his or her background.  Subjects include information about trial experience, legal writings or courses taught, community activities, and a list of references.

After receiving the completed questionnaire, investigators from the committee then contact the references, trial adversaries and judges, and look into things like whether the person has ever been a party to a lawsuit or received criticism or sanction from an appellate court or the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission.

The final step is a hearing before the CBA’s Judicial Evaluation Committee, where the Candidate is given an opportunity to speak about his or her qualifications and is questioned by members of the committee.  After that there is discussion and then a secret ballot.  If the Candidate does not like the result, he or she can appeal and request another hearing.

The end result is a very thorough process.  Although I personally do not agree with each and every rating, I have to say that each rating is the result of a very long and careful process.

Judges are very important.  One day, one of them could change your life.  It is vitally important that we elect qualified jurists.  So please review the committee’s findings, and print them out or have them on your phone when you go to vote.

Parrot “rats” out driver to police during traffic stop: “He’s drunk!”

From the New York Daily News:

A Mexican motorist was busted drunken driving after his pet parakeet ratted him out to police.

Guillermo Reyes, 49, was pulled over by traffic officers at a routine alcohol checkpoint in Mexico City last week.

As he got out of his blue Chevy to be tested, cops heard a voice saying: “He’s drunk, he’s drunk.”

At first, they thought someone else was inside the vehicle.

But, on closer inspection, they were stunned to see it was Reyes’ beloved bird turned snitch.

El Universal reports that Reyes was indeed found to be drunk and was subsequently arrested.

Chris Kattan’s tweets miss the point

In case you missed it, former Saturday Night Live star Chris Kattan was arrested earlier this week for DUI after he crashed his car into a construction vehicle.  The police suspect him of being under the influence of medications. If you watch the above video, you will see that Kattan could barely walk, let alone perform field sobriety tests.  Based on the video, it is almost certain that his attorney will ultimately work out some sort of plea deal.

Until then however, Kattan has been busy tweeting.  According to CNN, he tweeted:

“Those concerned or just adding gossip: I’m fine, passed all tests, released without bail, have drivers license, cop offered to drive me home”

And TMZ states that he tweeted, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all” in response to the negative reaction that he received as a result of the arrest.

When I checked Kattan’s twitter account, both tweets had been deleted.

As a general rule, defendants should not make statements about their case, whether on twitter, facebook or ANYWHERE except to their attorney.  Otherwise, those statements can be used against them either as admissions, indications of guilt or lack of remorse.

It can be difficult, however, when the client is someone in the public eye, when it becomes as much a public relations problem as a legal one.

While I am a lawyer and have no P.R. experience, I think it is common sense that a celebrity like Kattan would be better served by either remaining silent or simply released a statement expressing regrets about the incident and that he is glad that no one was hurt.  Such as statement might help to quell any animosity against him for his actions without doing any long-term damage to his career or reputation.

Instead, I feel that his tweets brand him as someone who thinks that this is just about himself and not about the people he could have injured or killed.  He is a man in need of some counsel.