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Judge Arrested Over Spat During Traffic Stop in NW

By Henri E. Cauvin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 8, 2005; Page B02

A D.C. Superior Court judge was arrested over the weekend after she refused to return to her car during a traffic stop by a police officer in Northwest Washington.

The judge, Susan R. Winfield, was handcuffed late Sunday morning and taken to the 4th District police headquarters, where she was released after paying a $75 fine for failing to obey an order -- a low-level misdemeanor that carries no jail time, according to authorities.

Winfield, a 20-year veteran of the bench, is a former assistant U.S. attorney who generally is popular with police and prosecutors. Yesterday, she said that the arrest was enormously "embarrassing."

"I kept saying I should have stayed in the car," she said.

But it wasn't until the officer began handcuffing her and calling for backup assistance that she even realized she was in jeopardy of being arrested, Winfield said.

By then, it was too late.

The trouble began just before 11 a.m., when a police officer pulled the judge over in the 6400 block of 16th Street for speeding. Winfield and her teenage daughter were on their way to church.

The judge said yesterday that she did not believe she had been driving more than a mile or two over the 30-mph limit. She stepped out of the car, she said, to find out what was going on.

Using a megaphone mounted on the police cruiser, Officer Scott Fike ordered Winfield back into her car, but she continued to try to make her case. Fike got out of his car and approached her.

Winfield, 56, told the officer that she was doing 30 mph. She quoted Fike as saying that she was going 40 mph. The area in which she was alleged to have been speeding, in the 7200 block of 16th Street, was a construction zone, and that lowered its speed limit to 20 mph, according to D.C. police.

Winfield said that the officer again told her to return to her car. But she did not do so, and the debate over her speed continued.

At one point, she said, she told the officer that she was a judge. She said she made the comment so that he would understand that she was not trying to cause problems.

Because they still were talking, Winfield said, she did not realize that she still was expected to return to her car and that failing to obey the order would land her in trouble.

Fike, who is assigned to the K-9 Unit of the Special Operations Division, arrested Winfield for failing to follow his instructions. He also cited her for speeding; Winfield could still contest the speeding citation.

"My first thought was my daughter," she said. "I hate that she saw that, because you're supposed to be a role model. And then, of course, I was thinking about my job. You're not supposed to get arrested for anything."

Staff writer Del Quentin Wilber contributed to this report.

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