Maryland lawmaker charged with driving under the influence

August 20, 2013

Maryland lawmakers urged Del. Donald H. Dwyer Jr., who recently pleaded guilty to drunken boating, to get help after he was charged Tuesday with drunken driving and several other infractions, including driving with expired tags.

About 12:40 a.m. Tuesday, Dwyer, 55, was pulled over near the intersection of Edwin Raynor Boulevard and Route 100 in Pasadena after an Anne Arundel County police officer saw him commit several traffic violations, according to an arrest report.

The officer wrote in the report that Dwyer (R-Anne Arundel) smelled strongly of alcohol and that “his eyes were red and glossy and his face was flushed. Dwyer’s speech was also very slow and slurred.”

Dwyer told the officer that he was driving his Cadillac sedan from a tavern in Baltimore, where he said he drank two beers, the report said. Dwyer failed three field sobriety tests and was arrested, the report said.

Dwyer has been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, driving while impaired and a dozen other counts, including speeding, reckless driving and unsafe passing.


Maryland Del. Donald H. Dwyer Jr. (Anne Arundel County Police Department )

Dwyer did not immediately respond to a message left on his cellphone Tuesday morning. An attorney, David W. Fischer, declined to comment.

Dwyer recently pleaded guilty to a drunken-boating charge stemming from a collision last year that injured seven people.

Sentencing in that case is scheduled for Oct. 25 in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court. Prosecutors have reached a plea deal with Dwyer that calls for no additional incarceration.

But in court two weeks ago, retired Judge Emory A. Plitt Jr., who was brought in from Harford County to handle the case, said records from alcohol-treatment programs Dwyer enrolled in after the crash would be key to his decision about a sentence.

“I want to see evaluations from those programs,” said Plitt, who does not have to honor the plea deal.

Plitt indicated that he would also hear from victims. Among those injured was a girl, then 5, who suffered a fractured skull.

News of the latest charges against Dwyer prompted a swift call for his resignation from Del. Ronald A. George (Anne Arundel), a Republican candidate for governor.

“Out of concern for others who could be harmed and for Don Dwyer himself, I call on him to resign and get help,” George said. “His constituents deserve good representation.”

The leaders of the House Republican caucus in Annapolis stopped short of calling on Dwyer to step down but said in a statement that they were “deeply troubled.”

“We are grateful that the police were able to intervene before anyone was harmed,” said the joint statement of House Minority Leader Nicholaus R. Kipke (R-Anne Arundel) and Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga (R-Baltimore County). “We urge Delegate Dwyer to seek treatment immediately.”

House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) called Dwyer’s conduct “unbecoming of a legislator.”

Busch said Dwyer’s future in the body would be “decided by his own conscience as he considers whether he can effectively represent his constituents or ultimately by the voters.”

Because all the earlier charges filed against Dwyer were misdemeanors and none was directly related to his job as a legislator, he has not been under threat of automatic expulsion from the General Assembly.

In May, during an appearance in Anne Arundel County District Court, Dwyer said that he was “very remorseful” for what had happened in the boating collision and that he was continuing to seek help for a drinking problem that stemmed in part from marital issues.

The judge imposed a 30-day jail sentence, saying that as a lawmaker, Dwyer should be held to a higher standard for drinking excessively before the crash. Dwyer promptly appealed that sentence to the Circuit Court.

The officer who first reported Dwyer driving unusually Tuesday morning was transporting a prisoner. A second officer who called for backup wrote in his report that his colleague, despite having a prisoner with him, thought “the violations were serious enough that a traffic stop needed to be made to prevent possible injury to the driver of the vehicle and/or the other drivers on the roadway.”

John Wagner has covered Maryland government and politics for The Post since 2004.
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