ELLICOT CITY, Md. - The Ellicot City woman was pulled over and blew more than double the legal alcohol limit, a .17.
But it is why she was pulled over that ultimately let her walk out of Judge Sue-Ellen Hantman’s Howard County District Court room charge free.
"You have to have reason, not a number to meet, actual reasons to pull over someone and invade their privacy," said the woman’s defense attorney Mark Muffoletto.
Muffoletto successfully argued that point on behalf of his client based on a memo obtained from Howard County Police; one that states officers should be ticketing two to four drivers an hour during DUI patrols to justify a federal grant police received.
"What the judge found yesterday was that they were violating the quota law under the public safety article and therefore they were operating illegally. Therefore they can't seize you illegally under the constitution," said Muffoletto.
"I don't know why the judge ruled the way she did," said Howard County Chief William McMahon.
Chief McMahon says the judge let a drunk and reckless driver go over what is basically a misunderstanding.
The memo did exist and the department does not debate that, but it was simply bad wording by the employee who typed it.
"Clearly our memo could have been worded better but I don't think the verbiage in a memo ought to be the underpinning of throwing out a case of somebody twice the legal limit," the chief said.
The memo said citations; two to four an hour.
That feels and looks like a quota but police say it should have read ‘stops.’
The feds simply want to see enough activity during DUI enforcement to award the money and police say the employee who wrote it up simply misunderstood that difference.
Citations are tickets, stops often are not.
Police insist it is bad practice to pad numbers and they don't do it.
[There are no quotas in the Howard County Police Department?] There are no quotas…period," responded McMahon.
But this memo won’t simply just go away.
While the memo was only active from January through April of 2011 before police noticed and fixed it, Muffoletto and other defense attorneys have found and will search for other DUI cases during those four months.
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