Judge Vincent White Beats DUI Conviction

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[Equal Justice Foundation comments in Courier font.]

DA's office says lack of evidence killed DUI charge

© 2005 by Sue Lindsay, Rocky Mountain News

Judge-to-be not given any favors

[except that he evades the law]

February 5, 2005 — Officials insist that a newly appointed Arapahoe County district judge did not receive special treatment when drunken driving charges were dismissed against him. [But the public is rightfully skeptical.]

Prosecutors dismissed DUI charges against Vincent White, 41, after he pleaded guilty to speeding Tuesday in Denver County Court.

His case was not treated differently because of his position, said Lynn Kimbrough, spokeswoman for the Denver District Attorney's Office.

Curt Alfrey, Denver chief deputy district attorney, said he "scrutinized" the case very closely to ensure it was handled properly and because White is a judicial appointee. [Otherwise White would have been railroaded like an ordinary citizen.]

"But that played no part in my decision-making," he said. "There simply was no other resolution that could be had."

The only evidence against White was an officer's report that he smelled alcohol when he pulled White over for speeding, Kimbrough said.

White steadfastly refused to take a sobriety test.

"In this case, there was no other evidence to prove the DUI charge," Kimbrough said.

Cases in which defendants refuse testing can sometimes be proved by other evidence such as open containers in the car or witnesses who see erratic driving, she said. But there was none of that here, she said.

"In cases like this one where there is no other evidence, we have the ethical obligation not to go forward with the case," Kimbrough said.

Alfrey said the DUI case could not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt and likely would have been dismissed before trial.

"This was a very simple speeding ticket where someone smelled alcohol," he said. "That is not enough. The officers acted well within bounds, but our obligations are very different from theirs."

White, who was a Colorado deputy attorney general prior to his appointment to the bench, had been at a bar with other attorneys from his office before his arrest January 7, 2005, said his attorney, Craig Truman. [Note that White has no prior judicial experience that would qualify him for the elevated position of district judge to which he has been appointed.]

White said he had one glass of wine four hours before he was pulled over for driving 60 mph in a 35 mph zone on Park Avenue West.

Attorneys who were with him verified that he had only one glass of wine and perhaps a couple of sips from a second glass, Truman said.

White had a reputation for drinking very little as a result of a drunken driving arrest in 2000, Truman said. He pleaded guilty to driving while ability is impaired in that case with a blood alcohol level of 0.117, Truman said.

"He was kind of a mother hen cautioning others at gatherings not to drink and drive," Truman said.

According to court records, the officer who made the January 7, 2005, stop said he "smelled a strong odor of alcoholic beverage" on White.

But when White was asked to do a voluntary roadside sobriety test, he refused, claiming he was stopped because of racial profiling, Truman said. He also refused a breath test or blood draw.

Police told him that they can't tell at night whether a driver is male, female or 13 years old, the police report said.

White continued to refuse all tests and was advised that he could lose his driver's license for a year under Colorado's "express consent" law. [Unless you're a judge.]

White was taken to police headquarters and released to his wife later that night, Truman said.

His license was taken, but he was given a temporary license pending a February 15, 2005, hearing before the Department of Motor Vehicles, three days before he is to be sworn in as a judge.

If the hearing officer rules against White, he will lose his driver's license for one year. [Didn't happen to Judge White!]

Gov. Bill Owens appointed White to fill a vacancy in the 18th Judicial District in August. The appointment won't be affected by the traffic case, said Owens' spokesman Dan Hopkins. [And this individual, with no prior experience on the bench, was the best the governor could find to appoint as a district judge?]

"Clearly, the incident raises some concerns, but we have to rely on the judgment of the prosecutors in the case as well," Hopkins said.


lindsays@RockyMountainNews.com or 303-892-5181


Judge charged with DUI takes plea agreement

© 2005 Rocky Mountain News

February 4, 2005 — A DUI charge was dismissed Thursday against a judge in the 18th Judicial District who pleaded guilty to reduced charges in Denver.

Vincent White, 41, was fined $200 after pleading guilty to a speeding charge in Denver County Court, said Lynn Kimbrough, spokeswoman for the Denver district attorney.

He also was assessed six points against his driver's license for traveling 60 mph in a 35 mph zone.

White was pulled over for speeding January 7, 2005, on Park Avenue West near Globeville Road. He was arrested for investigation of speeding, careless driving and DUI.

White refused to take a roadside sobriety test and refused to submit to a blood test.

Kimbrough said the DUI charge and a careless driving count were dismissed as part of the plea agreement because there was no likelihood of conviction and no reasonable belief that the charges could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.


Note that by refusing to take a blood alcohol test Mr. White likley avoided his second DUI conviction within 5 years.

If convicted, however, he would have also faced criminal penalties and possibly lost his appointment to the bench. So now we have a drunk judge going to the already corrupt 18th Judicial District while evading the law.


Racism claims annoy officers

© 2005 by John Aguilar, Rocky Mountain News

Cops [and the Equal Justice Foundation] disappointed that judge didn't lose driver's license

March 5, 2005 — The Denver police officers who arrested a soon-to-be judge for refusing to take a blood-alcohol test said they are offended by his accusations of racism and disappointed that he kept his driver's license.

Officers Brett Willcockson and Marisa Hubert said they did everything by the book when they pulled over Vincent White, 41, for speeding.

They asked him to submit to a sobriety test after smelling alcohol on his breath and noticing that his eyes were bloodshot and watery, their report says.

White, who was convicted of drunken driving nearly five years ago, was sworn in as an Arapahoe County district judge on February 18, 2005. [Emphasis added] He didn't return calls to both his office and home.

"There definitely was probable cause on my part to ask Mr. White to submit to a test," Willcockson said. He rejected White's claims that he was pulled over because he is black.

The officer said he told White that he had no way of identifying who was behind the wheel of a passing vehicle at night. "That's not the way I operate," Willcockson said. "I'm not going to risk my career over something so trivial."

Hubert, who joined Willcockson at the scene, said she thought the claims of racial profiling hurt White's credibility.

White was pulled over January 7, 2005, after his vehicle was clocked at 60 mph in a 35 mph zone on Park Avenue West, police said. He was arrested after refusing to take a sobriety test.

Under Colorado's "express consent" law, drivers who refuse to take a blood-alcohol test lose their license for a year. [Unless you are a judge.]

White appealed the revocation to the Colorado Department of Revenue, which oversees the Division of Motor Vehicles.

Greg Mahoney, a hearings officer, ruled February 15,2005, that case law has determined that "just the odor of an alcoholic beverage and bloodshot, watery eyes" is not sufficient justification to demand a test. [Of course that would be more than enough evidence to convict an ordinary citizen.]

Mahoney dismissed the charge and returned the judge's license. [Gee, how nice of him!]

"It's frustrating for us because we're trying to do our job as we've been trained," said Hubert, who added that their actions were consistent with what they learned at the police academy regarding DUI stops. [And it's frustrating to us as well.]

Teresa Garcia, a police spokeswoman, said the combination of speeding, bloodshot eyes and the odor of alcohol is consistent with department protocols regarding proper DUI stops, and she defended the officers' conduct. [As well she should!]

Lynn Kimbrough, a spokeswoman with the Denver District Attorney's Office, said her office didn't have enough evidence beyond the officers' report that White was committing DUI.

"We frequently go forward with criminal DUI charges even in cases where people have refused the test because we have other evidence to prove it to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt," she said. Without witnesses to erratic driving, open containers or slurred speech on the part of White, Kimbrough said the district attorney didn't have a case.

Nancy Watkins, a certified addiction counselor in Wellington, said she had to calm down a group of DUI offenders after they heard the story of the judicial appointee getting his license back. "It makes the justice system look like a joke," she said.

"Every single one of my clients who has refused a Breathalyzer has always, always lost their license for a year."

Only about 20 percent of people who refuse to take a sobriety test during a traffic stop regain their license after going before a hearing officer, said Steve Hooper, assistant chief hearings officer for the Department of Revenue.

More than half of those people get their licenses reinstated because the police officer doesn't show up at the hearing, Hooper said. Only 7 percent to 8 percent of all refusals win their licenses back purely on the merits of their cases.

"I think the message is clear," Willcockson said. "It appears there was preferential treatment because he was going to be approved to a judgeship."

Hooper said hearings officers are randomly assigned to cases and that their decision must be "consistent with the law and facts."

Defense attorneys who handle DUI cases said that Mahoney interpreted the law correctly.

Attorney H. Michael Steinberg said the hearing officer was right in citing People vs. Roybal, among other cases, as grounds to dismiss the charge.

In that 1982 case, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that a man who had just been in an accident and had a detectable odor of alcohol on his breath, but wasn't stumbling or slurring his speech, could not be compelled to take a sobriety test.

"Probable cause is a very serious standard of proof that police have to meet," Steinberg said. "(White) exercised his rights in a very intelligent way." [In a way that would have availed an ordinary citizen nothing.]

White's attorney, Craig Truman, acknowledged that his client took a risk when he refused to take the test.Truman said that White told him he wished he had just taken the test and avoided all the adverse publicity.


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