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Newsman Sam Donaldson Gets DUI in Delaware Beach Town

By Deanne Katz, Esq. on December 19, 2012 10:51 AM

Sam Donaldson, the veteran ABC news anchor and political correspondent, got pulled over for a DUI earlier this month.

Donaldson was driving in the beach town of Lewes, Delaware, on Dec. 1, when police noticed that he was driving on the shoulder of the road. After a field sobriety test, which Donaldson failed, he was arrested for a suspected DUI.

Donaldson was later charged with driving under the influence and released to await his court date. Now he'll have to face a judge.

How Donaldson does in court will depend on what kind of tests were conducted and how he decides to defend himself against the DUI charge.

Some field sobriety tests, like balancing on one foot or reciting the alphabet backwards, aren't always good indicators of intoxication. Those are things people can have difficulty with even when they're sober.

At age 78, it would be no surprise if Donaldson has some trouble with balance or memory as a factor of his age. At least he could potentially argue that as a defense.

But if the police-administered test was a Breathalyzer or a blood alcohol content analysis, then the results will be harder to fight in court. Those tests are often more accurate, as they measure the physiological characteristics of intoxication.

Still, it's possible to investigate how police conducted a breath or chemical test and possibly raise a defense based on improper procedure. That's something to talk over with your DUI lawyer before trial.

Donaldson cooperated with police throughout the incident, according to Delaware's WXDE radio. That may have just been good behavior which is important when dealing with police. But it may also be an indicator that he is not going to fight the charges.

Even if Donaldson pleads guilty to the DUI, his attorney could argue for a more lenient sentence, especially if this is the former newsman's first DUI arrest.

One thing Donaldson probably can't argue is that police didn't have probable cause. Before officers pull someone over, they must have reason to suspect that person is breaking the law. That reason must be supported by identifiable factors.

The clearest factor here is Donaldson allegedly driving on the road's shoulder. That's not something a driver should ever be doing, and it's something police should pay attention to.

Whatever he does in court, Donaldson will hopefully act on the advice of his lawyer. News reports do not indicate when his next court date is scheduled.

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