OCEAN CITY – Wicomico County State’s Attorney Davis Ruark faced charges of driving under the influence this week in Ocean City District Court, receiving one year of unsupervised probation, $500 in fines and 12 points on his drivers license.
Ruark, 52, of Parsonsburg, was arrested on Chesapeake Drive in Ocean City on February 22 after resort police received a 911 around 9:40 p.m. from a local resident who had been following a vehicle that was speeding and driving erratically on the Route 90 bridge.
Shortly thereafter, OCPD officers observed the vehicle, a black 2000 Nissan registered to the Wicomico County government, at the foot of the bridge. OCPD officers followed the vehicle northbound on Coastal Highway and observed it going 50 mph in a 40 mph zone. After turning west on 94th Street, the car was seen crossing the centerline of the roadway.
Resort police stopped the vehicle on Chesapeake Drive and identified the driver as Ruark. After failing several field sobriety tests, Ruark was placed under arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol. When asked if he had a handgun in the vehicle, Ruark told police there was a handgun in the center console. A subsequent search of the vehicle revealed a Glock semi-automatic .45-caliber handgun, which Ruark was permitted to carry, in the center console along with ammunition.
Ruark was transported to OCPD headquarters where he was administered a breath test, the results of which revealed a breath-alcohol content of .15, or nearly twice the legal limit in Maryland. Ruark was processed and later released.
A few days later, the OCPD filed an application with the District Court Commissioner’s Office to charge Ruark with a handgun violation. Ruark is permitted to carry the handgun, but state law prohibits a person who holds a permit from wearing, carrying or transporting a handgun while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Ruark appeared in District Court this week to face the charges, pleading guilty to driving under the influence. In exchange for the guilty plea, prosecutors dropped the handgun violation charges.
Ruark’s attorney, Richard Parolski, addressed the court, pointing out that Ruark was a first offender with a clean driving record. He also noted Ruark’s willingness to admit that he was at fault from the beginning.
Soon after his arrest, Ruark was forthcoming with the public and press and publicly apologized for his actions during a press conference the following day.
“This is, by far, the saddest day of my professional career,” he said at the time. “I made a tremendous error in judgment.”
Ruark took a one-month, paid leave, entering a 14-day, in-house treatment. Ruark has since returned to work.
Parolski presented Judge John Coolahan, Baltimore County District Court Judge, with three letters of support on Ruark’s behalf, including one from Wicomico County Executive Rick Pollitt.
Ruark’s attorney requested a fine in the case, in lieu of probation before judgment, requesting no probationary period. Parolski pointed out that Ruark would still endure the addition of 12 points on his license as well as a conviction on his record. “I’m sure he’s going to be watched very closely,” Parolski said, noting Ruark’s unique situation as a public figure in which the 90,000 residents of Wicomico County would be watching and aware of any further run-ins with the law.
“I’m overwhelmed and I am humbled by the support that I’ve received,” Ruark said to the court. “This was an aberration, there were some personal issues,” he continued, apologizing once again for his actions that night. “I’ve been on the other side of the table, I understand there are ramifications.”
“There are many people who come before the court who stumble, who fall,” said special prosecutor Thomas Degonia, maintaining that as Ruark put himself and others at risk with his actions, he should be treated the same as any other offender.
Judge Coolahan found Ruark guilty of driving under the influence, sentencing him to a $557.50 fine and one year of unsupervised probation. “If you mess up it’s going to be known,” said Judge Coolahan. Although Ruark was not prosecuted for the handgun violation, the firearm is to be returned to Wicomico County. Ruark must also surrender his handgun carry permit. He will be eligible to re-apply for the permit at the conclusion of his probation.