Judges are considered to be community exemplars when it comes to doing the right thing, at least that’s usually the case…. Judges are humans too, and they can certainly make mistakes. When judges break the law, they should not receive any special treatment, and if anything, they should probably be held to a higher standard. The story of Retired Judge Eric Lundell is a bit different from what most people would expect and is a learning opportunity in a lot of ways.
On December 8, 2018, soon-to-be retired Judge Lundell was leaving his office at the courthouse after having packed up his things. Lundell had spent nearly 30 years as a judge in St. Croix County and had tendered his retirement in December. His retirement was tendered while he was under internal investigation for sexual harassment committed during his time as a judge.
If matters were not bad enough already for Lundell, he made them worse by driving under the influence. Lundell was pulled over at 1 p.m. by Wisconsin police after he side-swiped a metal guard post. Officers indicated that they smelled alcohol on Lundell and observed bloodshot eyes after he was pulled over. Lundell was asked to perform the one-leg stand test, a standardized field sobriety test used in Virginia and across the country, which he also failed. Despite this, police officers told Lundell that they were not comfortable arresting him.
After being told he would not be arrested, Lundell was asked to blow into a handheld breathalyzer. While these machines can be faulty if not properly maintained, they often give a decent idea of someone’s blood alcohol content (BAC). Lundell’s BAC was a .128. Virginia’s legal limit is .08. This means Lundell was well beyond the legal limit when he was pulled over. Shockingly, however, the police let Lundell go without arresting or charging him with any offenses.
What are the lessons to learn here? First, don’t drive drunk! If you avoid driving after you have been drinking, you can’t get charged for driving under the influence. Maybe they don’t have Uber in Hudson, Wisconsin, but I bet there are taxis still….
Second, if you do make the mistake of driving after drinking, do NOT do anything that Lundell did when he interacted with officers. In Virginia, you are permitted to refuse the roadside breathalyzer test and any and all field sobriety tests. This means that if you are asked to do anything, you can simply say no and police can’t force you to do the field sobriety tests.
You also should not make statements like “give me the police courtesy” or “I don’t need this.” I guess this works if you have been a judge for 30 years in Wisconsin, but it almost definitely won’t work in Virginia. You are better off saying nothing if the alternative option is to say something that could be potentially incriminating.
If you have been charged with a driving under the influence offense or other types of offenses, give the experienced DUI attorneys at Greenspun Shapiro a call now to see what can be done to defend your rights and protect you.