Legal Ethics

Prosecutor Riding in DUI Car Disciplined

After a suburban Chicago prosecutor drank, drove and died May 11 in an auto accident that seriously injured another motorist, the top prosecutor in a neighboring county announced a strict new policy on drinking and driving.

Even if they are not charged, Kane County Prosecutor John Barsanti told his staff, they face potential disciplinary action—and potentially could be terminated—if they get behind the wheel after having too much to drink, reported last month.

Now Barsanti is enforcing that policy. He has announced a one-week unpaid suspension of a prosecutor who was a passenger in a car being driven Friday night by an intoxicated county sheriff’s deputy, Lt. Todd Exline, reports the Kane County Chronicle. Although Assistant State’s Attorney Kelly Orland didn’t break any laws, Barsanti says, she used poor judgment by getting in a car with a drunken driver. Orland herself couldn’t drive because she was also intoxicated.

“I would expect her not to get in the car, and I expect her to do everything to talk this guy out of this,” Barsanti told the Daily Herald, an Arlington Heights, Ill., newspaper. “I am holding my people to a higher standard.”

He said he hasn’t decided whether his new policy requires off-duty prosecutors to call police about drunken drivers. Barsanti praised Orland, however, for not driving herself; for refusing to drive Exline’s car after he was pulled over; and for reporting the incident to her supervisors on Saturday morning, nearly two days before police talked with the prosecutor’s office about filing charges against Exline.

Exline, who formerly ran the county jail, was charged this week with driving under the influence, AP reports. Questions were raised about whether he received favorable treatment, and, because he wasn’t asked to take a Breathalzyer test after failing a field sobriety test, he won’t have his license suspended for six months, the Daily Herald says. Barsanti said a special prosecutor will handle Exline’s case because a county prosecutor was involved.

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