A Maryland lawmaker has been sentenced to 30 days in jail for boating while intoxicated. Delegate Donald H. Dwyer Jr. pleaded guilty to operating his boat under the influence of alcohol, but was denied probation before judgment. Prosecutors dropped a slew of other charges related to the August 2012 boating accident that injured seven people, including a 5-year-old girl, and landed Dwyer before the judge.
Dwyer’s lawyers had been confident that the Republican lawmaker would spend no time in jail. In an interview before the sentencing hearing, Dwyer apologized profusely for his actions. His lawyer told reporters that he was enrolled in a 26-week alcohol treatment program, but refused to answer questions regarding whether Dwyer had had a drink since the accident. His attorney, David Fischer, believes that he could have gotten Dwyer off on a technicality, but urged him to plead guilty to the charges because he had in fact been drinking the day of the accident.
The case was handled by the Howard County State’s Attorney’s office, to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest. District Court Judge Robert Wilcox, who rejected the deal, said that Dwyer didn’t deserve special treatment. Judge Wilcox, who said that lawmakers also have an obligation to obey the laws, also handed down a $1,000 fine. Dwyer will have to surrender himself, unless he chooses to appeal the decision.
Dwyer’s attorney insists that he was not at fault for the accident, in which the lawmaker and another boater were originally charge with a mere “rules-of-the-road” violation. Maryland natural Resources Police later discovered that Dwyer’s blood alcohol content was three times higher than the legal limit. Dwyer was facing a maximum of one year and prison and $1,940 in fines for the related charges. He was charged with negligent operation, reckless operation, failure to get a boating certificate, and operating a boat under the influence. Dwyer apologized for his conduct follow his initial arrest, but said that he was glad that he wasn’t found to be at fault for the accident. He noted the charges against the other boat operator and told reporters that his boat was the one that was actually struck.
Mark Harbin, 52, of Pasadena, was also charged in connection with the accident. Police say that both boat operators acted improperly and that neither of them took the step necessary to prevent the collision. The investigation, which took months to conduct, landed the Maryland legislator in far more hot water than his fellow accused. Since the charges against Dwyer are misdemeanors and don’t directly relate to his position, he won’t be required to resign from the Maryland State General Assembly. This would prevent the Ethics Committee from launching an investigation.
Dwyer has since lost his seat on the House Judiciary Committee. He had served on that committee for eleven years. He was moved to the Ways and Means Committee. Dwyer said that he understood the decision and stated that he would be glad to serve on another committee. He has recently announced that he intends to seek reelection and told reporters that he has returned to boating.