Drunk Driver Hits Judge Who Spared Him
This case is a shot of irony, served straight up. In fact, it would even be funny, if it weren't quite so awful. On Aug. 21, 2009, a drunk driver hit and seriously injured an elderly couple, 81 year-old Ellen Collier and her husband Edwin Collier, 85. Mr. Edwin Collier is a retired judge, in fact the same judge who had the same driver appear before him in court. At the time, Judge Collier spared that defendant time in jail over a DUI.
According to The Washington Post, on Aug. 21, Rene E. Fernandez was driving erratically and swerving across lanes into oncoming traffic. One witness says Fernandez was just "out of control" when he struck the Colliers' Honda Accord with his Chevy Tahoe. Eleanor Collier was hospitalized with a leg fracture, fractured ribs, a fractured hip and neck injuries and Judge Collier suffered a broken leg and fractured ribs. According to reports, Fernandez tested at twice the legal limit for alcohol. In all states, an adult who has a blood alcohol content level of .08% or above is guilty of a DUI (driving under the influence) or DWI (driving while intoxicated).
The Colliers have had their mobility so greatly diminished by their injuries they have had to leave their home in Bethesda, Maryland, and move into a retirement community.
The Post reports the original case involving Fernandez, not his only time in court for DUI, came before Judge Collier in 1998. Police saw his car idling in a parking lot and failing to respond to officers flashing their high beams at the car. After then failing a field sobriety test, Fernandez was required to appear in Judge Collier's courtroom. The judge sentenced him to a 60 day suspended sentence, one year of supervised probation and ordered him to abstain from alcohol and submit to alcohol and drug testing. Lawyers familiar with the courts in that county told The Post this sentence did not deviate from the usual for this type of infraction.
But if the suspended sentence given by Judge Collier can be considered a good deed, it did not as the saying goes, go unpunished. Although Fernandez managed to stay sober (or at least not get caught) for the next 11 years, his next run in with the law and alcohol was the one that also included a run into the judge and his wife.
Fernandez is due in court on the current charges Wednesday, April 14. One can only hope someone else will drive him there.
- Md. driver accused of hitting judge who suspended DWI term in 1998 (Washington Post)
- Drunk Driving FAQ (FindLaw)
- Driving Under the Influence (DUI / DWI) (FindLaw)
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