- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Charles County commissioners’ Vice President Reuben B. Collins II (D) publicly apologized Tuesday to county residents for his drunken driving arrest Thursday evening.
A Charles County sheriff’s officer pulled Collins over about 8:35 p.m. on St. Charles Parkway after observing the commissioner’s sedan operating “erratically,” sheriff’s office spokeswoman Diane Richardson said.
Collins failed field sobriety tests, at which point he was arrested and taken to the Charles County jail in La Plata, Richardson said. He agreed to a breathalyzer test, during which his blood-alcohol level was measured above the legal limit of .08, she said.
Collins was charged with driving under the influence, driving under the influence per se and driving while impaired. He was released to a relative’s custody, Richardson said.
The sheriff’s office would not disclose Collins’ specific blood-alcohol level, and arrest records were not available at the Charles County courthouse as of Tuesday morning.
“I wanted to express again my sincere contrition to the citizens of Charles County. I’d like to apologize directly to my family, friends and all of the individuals that live in this wonderful community,” Collins said at the end of the commissioners’ weekly meeting. “I accept and take complete responsibility for my actions, and I’d also like to commend the work of the Charles County Sheriff’s Office during this period. The officers as a whole responded professionally, and the work that they do in our community ensures that all of our citizens are safe.”
Collins is scheduled to appear March 31 in Charles County District Court.
Charles County State’s Attorney Anthony B. Covington (D) said the case almost certainly would be referred to an out-of-county judge and prosecutor, to eliminate any appearance of a conflict of interest.
Covington would not comment further on the pending case other than to say that while judges tend to have their own sentencing patterns for first-time DUI offenders, his office did not have a standard sentencing recommendation.
“Every case is different. I can’t say that we have a standard,” Covington said.
Collins has hired La Plata attorney Hammad Matin, who said Tuesday that he was waiting to receive a full police report before advising Collins whether to plead guilty to or contest any of the charges.
“Obviously, Commissioner Collins has taken responsibility for his actions and apologized for them,” Matin said. “Once we have all the information, that determination will be made very quickly.”
Again citing his request for full discovery in the case, Matin declined to disclose Collins’ blood-alcohol level at the time of his arrest.
Collins was driving his personal car at the time of his arrest, but his county vehicle privileges have been suspended pending the outcome of his case, county spokeswoman Donna Fuqua said.
Per county policy, if Collins is convicted or pleads no contest to the charges, he will not be eligible to drive a county vehicle for three years.
Collins previously took responsibility for his arrest Friday morning during a phone interview with the Maryland Independent. Collins said he was driving to his La Plata law office from his Waldorf home when he was pulled over.
“I had wine while having dinner with my family at home. I made an error, a sincere and serious error in judgment by making the decision after completing the meal of driving back to my law office,” he said Friday. “I deeply and sincerely regret my mistake, and I ask total forgiveness from my family, friends and the citizens of Charles County. I say emphatically that this will never happen again, and I’d also like to recognize the work done by the sheriff’s office for keeping our citizens safe.”
Collins said he was moving boxes between his home and office and also needed to work on a legal document that was due in court Friday.
“I’m taking complete and full responsibility,” he added. “I don’t want to in any way suggest this lapse in judgment was something that should be dismissed in any way. This is very serious.
“I think I have a very good record in all aspects of my life, and I just want to let the public know how deeply remorseful I am because I do take very seriously that responsibility, and nothing like this will ever happen again.”
Collins is running for commissioners’ president in the 2014 election. His primary opponent, Del. Peter F. Murphy (D), declined comment on the arrest other than to express his relief that there was no accident and that no one was injured.
“When I heard about it, my first thoughts were that if there was an accident and if there was, was he OK and if there was anybody injured,” Murphy said. “Once I found out everyone was OK, those were really my only thoughts about it.”