Ex-liquor Board Chair Pleads Guilty to DUI, Reckless Driving; Given Probation

WASHINGTON — The former chair of the Prince George’s County liquor board pleaded guilty Friday to charges that included driving under the influence and reckless driving and was given probation before judgment.

Charles Caldwell, 73, stepped down from the liquor board following his arrest the night of the MGM National Harbor casino opening in December.

Probation before judgment allows Caldwell to have his record wiped clean if he complies with any restrictions set by the court. It’s a penalty that many road safety advocates say doesn’t fit the crime.

Last week, another public official from Prince George’s County was given probation before judgment in connection with a drunken driving crash. Councilmember Mel Franklin admitted to drinking before a December collision that injured two people and totaled Franklin’s county-issued car.

It wasn’t the first time Franklin was involved in a crash while behind the wheel of a county-issued car: In 2012 he was involved in a crash that damaged his assigned vehicle.

Lisa Spicknall, the program director for Mother’s Against Drunk Driving in Maryland, said the use of probation before judgment sends the wrong message about the offense of driving drunk.

Spicknall said it amounts to giving offenders “a first bite at the apple.” She adds “Maryland’s very lenient on drunk driving, and that’s really difficult for us to work with.”

Spicknall said her organization has worked to eliminate probation before judgment in drunken driving cases. “Unfortunately that’s not something we’ve been successful on.”

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