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DA Gets 45 Day Jail Sentence, Suspension; Should She Resign?

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By William Peacock, Esq. on April 23, 2013 7:01 AM

Yes, lawyers drink. It's a truism for a reason. Drinking is highly correlated with drunk driving. It should be no surprise then, that occasionally, a lawyer, or more specifically, a prosecutor, will be charged with driving under the influence. The only real question is, can that person, in good conscience, continue to prosecute DUI offenders while facing DUI charges?

It sounds like a ridiculous question. Do as we say, not as we do, right? Yet, the District Attorney for Travis County, Texas, Rosemary Lehmberg is facing those questions now, after she pled guilty unconditionally, waived her right to an appeal, and prepares for a relatively lengthy jail sentence.

She received the opposite of a slap on the wrist: 45 days in jail and a $4,000 fine, which is much more than most first time offenders. In fact, according to the American-Statesman, it's the harshest penalty ever for a first-time offender in Travis County history.

Her license to practice law will also be suspended 180 days, according to the Statesman.

Her situation is uniquely interesting. Her post-arrest conduct has been commendable. She has cooperated, pled guilty without reservation, and taken responsibility for her actions. It is her pre-arrest conduct that is causing the uproar.

She was reportedly pulled over with an open bottle of vodka in her car. According to the video provided by the Statesman, she was uncooperative, had to be restrained, and at one point, was in a restraint chair with a facemask that looked like something out of a bad Hannibal Lector movie. One of the officers stated in the video that the mask was there to protect her identity, but still -- she wasn't exactly behaving like an officer of the court.

She also repeatedly asked for Sheriff Greg Hamilton and stated, "He's not going to let me sit in jail all night. That's crazy." and seemed to be asking for favorable treatment. She also seemed to be threatening the officers' careers.

People say idiotic things when they are belligerently hammered (her BAC was reportedly 0.239). She didn't physically assault anyone, or get into an accident, or cause anyone any harm whatsoever. She's also taken responsibility since sobering up.

We're not seeing how it'll be possible to remain in office, however. If her license is suspended for 180 days, will she just take a post-jail vacation? Isn't that doing a disservice to her constituents who voted her in to office?

There is also a law in Texas that allows prosecutors to be removed from office for alcohol issues, though it has rarely, if ever, been used. The Statesman speculates that her motivation for staying might be political. If she is removed, Republican Governor Rick Perry would be tasked with appointing a replacement, likely a Republican, in the Democratic county.

What do you think? Should a prosecutor facing jail time for a misdemeanor offense resign from office? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter.

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