Delegate Is Found Guilty of Drunken Driving

A judge has fined Del. Herman L. Taylor II (D) $250.
A judge has fined Del. Herman L. Taylor II (D) $250. (Courtesy Of Herman Taylor)
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By Steve Hendrix
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 7, 2009

A House delegate from Montgomery County was found guilty yesterday of driving while impaired by alcohol after an early-morning incident in May in which a police officer found him asleep in his running car in a 7-Eleven parking lot.

Herman L. Taylor II (D), who once pushed to have special "DUI" license plates issued to repeat drunk drivers, was found guilty and fined $250 after an hour-long trial

Howard County District Court Judge Neil E. Axel and a Howard-based prosecutor were brought in to avoid the appearance of a conflict, given Taylor's status as a local elected official.

Taylor declined to comment after the trial. His attorney, John Kudel, didn't return a phone call.

The incident began before dawn May 1, when Officer Peter Johnson saw a white Cadillac Escalade pull into the 7-Eleven lot in the 10200 block of New Hampshire Avenue. Johnson, who was engaged with another call at time, noticed that no one got out of the vehicle. Investigating later, he found Taylor asleep, his head leaning back, he said in court.

When he wasn't able to rouse Taylor by tapping on the window with his metal flashlight, he opened the door and eventually aroused him by shaking his shoulder, the officer said.

Johnson said he smelled alcohol in the car and on Taylor and noted that the delegate appeared confused and unbalanced. Taylor told Johnson that he had spent the evening at a Prince George's convention hall and had consumed one beer.

Taylor cooperated with the first of a series of sobriety checks, tracking a pen moved before his eyes. Johnson said that test indicated impairment. But after stumbling when he attempted to stand on a white line, Taylor declined to take additional field tests and was arrested, Johnson testified.

Taylor's on-again, off-again cooperation continued at the station, Johnson said. After making several phone calls, Taylor deliberated for an hour before agreeing to a breathalyzer test. And then, according to testimony by the officer who administered the test, he pretended to blow into the tube and did not expel any air.

Officers recorded the episode as a refusal to give a sample.

Kudel tried to attribute Taylor's confusion and seeming impairment to having been woken suddenly from a sound sleep by a police officer.

But Axel ruled against Taylor almost immediately upon the close of arguments and denied a defense request to suspend the sentence. "Mr. Taylor believes very strongly in his innocence," said Kudel in court. "I suppose it could go under the heading of reasonable minds can differ."

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