The Prince George’s County Councilwoman who police sources said was traveling at more than 100 mph on the Capital Beltway earlier this year is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday to address the serious, reckless driving charge that threatens to strip her of her driver’s license.
If convicted, Karen R. Toles (D-Suitland) could face a $510 fine and six-point license penalty, which would push the total on the councilwoman’s license above eight points and initiate the process to suspend her driving privileges, according to authorities and court records. Before the now infamous Feb. 22 incident, Toles already had two points on her license, according to court and state motor vehicle records.
Toles has repeatedly apologized for the incident — saying she was late for an appointment the day she was pulled over and she would not drive a county-owned vehicle until she completed a driver improvement course — but she has offered no indication of how she will handle the reckless driving charge. In March, she pleaded guilty to a less serious unsafe lane change ticket stemming from the incident, leading some legal experts to speculate that she might try to fight the reckless driving charge on double jeopardy grounds by arguing, essentially, that she was being prosecuted twice for the same crime.
The unsafe lane change ticket carries a $90 fine and one-point license penalty.
No matter the outcome, Wednesday’s hearing is likely to bring an end the affair that began when a Prince George’s County police officer saw Toles’s county-issued Ford Edge traveling southbound on the Capital Beltway, law enforcement sources have said. The Edge veered across several lanes of traffic as it drove toward the exit for Branch Avenue, the sources have said.
The officer turned on his lights and sirens and followed Toles, law enforcement sources have said. As he did so, his cruiser’s in-car camera showed him reaching speeds as high as 108 mph, sources have said.
When the officer finally reached Toles’s vehicle — which was stopped at a red light at the intersection of Branch Avenue and Auth Road — she drove away again, apparently unaware the officer wanted her to pull over, sources have said. Toles eventually stopped near the intersection of Branch Avenue and St. Barnabas Road, and the officer gave her a ticket for making an unsafe lane change and warning for speeding, sources have said.
Police initially defended the officer’s actions, saying that he had no radar gun to determine Toles’s exact speed and that the equipment in his cruiser was not properly calibrated because he normally works in an administrative job. They said that while the officer had to speed to catch Toles, he did not have enough time or space to determine her pace.
But on March 6 — after commanders and others reviewed the incident — police issued the councilwoman a reckless driving ticket. They said the “totality of the circumstances” led them to file the additional charge.
By that time, Toles already had pleaded guilty to an unsafe lane change ticket stemming from the incident. Police have said they did not know that when issuing her the more serious ticket, and even if they did, it probably would not have changed their actions.