Criminal Justice

Drunken Driver Spared Jail Time Accused in New DWI Accident, and Judge Is the Victim

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Maryland Judge Edwin Collier gave a drunken driver a break in 1998, imposing a suspended sentence even though the man had been arrested twice in three months on charges of driving while intoxicated.

Now Collier and his wife are the victims, after a Chevy Tahoe driven by the long-ago defendant, Rene Fernandez, collided with the Colliers’ Honda Accord, the Washington Post reports. Reports say Fernandez had a blood-alcohol level that was twice the legal limit, the story says.

Collier, now 86, suffered a broken leg and broken ribs. His 82-year-old wife, Ellen, suffered a compound leg fracture, fractured ribs, a fractured hip and neck injuries. The Colliers’ lawyer, John Kudel, told the Post that the accident has made it more difficult for the couple to get around, and they had to move to a retirement community as a result.

As recently as last year, Collier was still hearing cases for Maryland County, Md., as a retired judge.

Collier sentenced Fernandez in 1998 after he pleaded guilty to one of the offenses, and his sentence wasn’t out of line with other sentences in Montgomery County at the time, the story says. Collier sentenced Fernandez to a year of supervised probation, ordered him to stay away from alcohol, and ordered alcohol and drug testing.

“It’s just a total irony,” Kudel told the Post. “This shouldn’t happen to anyone. It certainly shouldn’t have happened to them.”

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