- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Charles County commissioners’ Vice President Reuben B. Collins II pleaded guilty Thursday to driving while impaired Jan. 30 while en route from his Waldorf home to his La Plata law office.
Visiting retired District Judge James Dryden granted Collins’ request for probation before judgment, sentencing him to one year of probation. The first three months will be supervised, followed by nine months of unsupervised probation.
The ruling essentially strikes any conviction and provides Collins, a first-time offender, the chance to wipe his record clean following completion of his probation.
Prosecutors dropped charges of driving under the influence and driving under the influence per se.
Collins (D) is running for commissioners’ president in the 2014 election.
The Charles County State’s Attorney’s Office recused itself from the case, so Calvert County Assistant State’s Attorney Kyle Tores represented the state before Dryden.
Collins was pulled over at about 8:35 p.m. Jan. 30 after a Charles County sheriff’s officer witnessed his sedan operating erratically and cross into the shoulder on St. Charles Parkway, Tores said in court Thursday afternoon.
Officers noticed the smell of alcohol on Collins’ breath, and his eyes were bloodshot. Collins was arrested after failing field sobriety tests, Tores said.
Collins agreed to a breathalyzer test, during which his blood-alcohol level was measured at 0.10, Tores said.
In Maryland, the legal blood-alcohol level is 0.08.
Collins was charged with DUI, DUI per se, and DWI.
Tores did not oppose the request for probation before judgment.
“I would like to apologize to my family more than anything,” Collins told Dryden. “I feel like this has put a stain on the way I was raised. I have never been in any kind of trouble my entire life.”
An attorney, Collins assured Dryden that “any incident like this will never happen again.”
As a young lawyer, defense attorney Hamad Matin said he “looked up to [Collins] as an older brother.”
“This is not really who he is,” Matin told Dryden. “He obviously made a mistake and has owned up to that.”
In an interview with the Maryland Independent the day after his arrest, Collins took responsibility for his actions, saying he had erred in getting behind the wheel after having wine at dinner with his family. He said he was ferrying boxes between his home and law office when he was pulled over.
A few days later, Collins apologized publicly to county residents during the commissioners’ weekly meeting.
Stephen Hunt, the Charles County Department of Health recovery care coordinator, told Dryden that the agency had assessed Collins and determined he was not in need of recovery services.
“I think I can trust that you understand once is enough and that this won’t happen again,” Dryden told Collins.
However, the judge warned Collins that if he were caught driving drunk again and appeared before him in court, “For certain, you would be incarcerated.”
“I believe in giving a second chance,” Dryden said. “I believe you deserve it, but I also believe in jail time if you don’t take advantage of it.”
Asked for comment after the hearing, Collins stated simply, “It’s not going to happen again.”
Collins was driving his personal car at the time of his arrest, but per county policy, he is not allowed to drive a county vehicle for three years following his guilty plea.
Prior to his arrest, Collins was one of two commissioners, along with Commissioner Debra M. Davis (D), to drive a county SUV.