Editorial

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has been on the hot seat over its recent handling of the incident involving a Delaware lawmaker, who was stopped in Ocean City last year, failed a preliminary breath test, was allowed to go without even a slap on the wrist, driven a few miles across the Delaware line by a friend and then drove himself home knowing he was over the legal limit.

Fair or not, and we would make the argument it’s been unfair criticism at times, MADD has been roasted by the public. It seems almost as much as the Delaware legislator, who is politically doomed and will forever be linked to this error in judgment, and the Ocean City Police Department, which has argued officer discretion is allowed in traffic stops and that it’s not unusual for resort police to not charge drivers who exceed the legal limit on a roadside breath test.

In a statement this week, MADD acknowledged it, too, made an error in judgment. It was proper to announce its mistake because it was wrong when it came out in support of the police department’s handling of the situation months ago. It seemed abrupt and premature at the time, and MADD admitted as much this week.

“We know more now than we did at the time of our original statement per the Ethics Committee Report and we have looked further into Maryland law, traffic stop procedures and spoken to law enforcement experts,” the statement from MADD Chesapeake Region Executive Director Caroline Cash said. “We have determined that field sobriety testing should have occurred at the traffic stop on Oct. 29.”

There is nothing wrong with this statement with the exception it should have come months ago after MADD’s meeting with the police department. Instead, MADD quickly commented it believed all proper protocol was followed by the OCPD. In fact, that’s not the case at all. MADD realizes that now. The statement read, “… we cannot support instances where proper procedure is not followed to protect the public.”

Much ado has been made over this botched incident. All the fuzz is appropriate. We admit we learned something covering this story. We were familiar with the fact officers have a certain amount of discretion in their daily work. However, we did not fully grasp the extent. For example, if a motorist is pulled over for speeding on Coastal Highway, a cop has a judgment call to make on whether to issue a warning or a ticket dependent upon the circumstances. That’s an example of officer discretion.

However, what we did not fully understand was the fact that if a driver blows over the legal limit on a roadside preliminary breath test that the officer can release the motorist if warranted. It was surprising to learn they not only can let the motorist go knowing they are over the legal limit but they apparently do it more often than we ever knew.

After reading all the reports, hearing all the sides of the situation, it’s obvious this incident was botched from the beginning. No other reasonable conclusion can be made. It’s a black eye for all involved. The key now is to learn from this mess, move on, understand the consequences and make sure it does not happen again.

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