View Full Version : Arrest of Senator's Wife Brings Political Paradox

03-10-2005, 01:57 PM
Arrest of Senator's Wife Brings Political Paradox
Loophole in Md. Law Used in Driving Case

By Allison Klein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 10, 2005; Page B01

Sen. John A. Giannetti Jr. (D-Prince George's) has long waged a legislative battle against drunken driving, filing no fewer than four bills in the General Assembly this year, including one to make it a crime to refuse a breathalyzer test.

Yet when his wife, Erin A. Giannetti, 26, was pulled over by police in Baltimore three months ago after a night of celebratory drinking, she called her husband for advice and then declined the common sobriety test, according to police records.

In an interview yesterday, the senator declined to relate what he told his wife that night, saying he is her lawyer and, as such, is bound by attorney-client privilege. But he added that there are times when a lawyer should advise a client against the test.

"I can't tell you what advice I gave to her. I can't say anything at all about her," said Giannetti, 40. "As the law stands now, there are circumstances where an attorney who is doing his or her job should advise a client not to take the test. There are circumstances when it's not in your best interest."

Maryland's lax policy on the breath test has long been considered one of the biggest loopholes in the state's drunken driving laws, which often leaves police without their best evidence that a motorist is legally drunk and allows repeat offenders to escape steeper punishments.

As many as 32 percent of Maryland drivers suspected of being impaired refuse the test. "We've got to get that number down," the senator said yesterday.

Giannetti, who said his younger brother was struck and seriously injured by a drunk driver years ago, has been among the leaders in the movement to close that loophole. That makes his wife's refusal to take the test -- and his possible involvement in her decision -- troubling for some drunken driving opponents.

"The bad part is, you've got people in the know using one of Maryland's frequently used escape routes in terms of beating a DUI," said Kurt Gregory Erickson, president of the advocacy umbrella group Washington Regional Alcohol Program. "The good thing is, it draws attention to the fact that it is a large problem in Maryland."

The senator, aware of the apparent contradiction, tried to clarify his dual roles as lawmaker and defense attorney. "We are a citizen legislature. My hat as a legislator takes into account what is best for public policy," he said. "When I go home from Annapolis, the issue is what's in the best interest of your client."

Erin Giannetti is enrolled in a 26-week outpatient alcohol awareness program, her husband said.

"I consider this incident a very personal family matter," he said. "We are handling it as a family, and we are doing everything that's appropriate. It is a very serious issue."

If one of Giannetti's bills became law, the penalty for refusing a breath test would be a $500 fine or up to six months in jail if convicted of drunken driving. If another of his bills passed, the penalty for refusing the test would be 12 points on a driver's license and up to a $1,000 fine or a year in prison, with or without a conviction for drunken driving.

Now, the sanction for declining a breath test is an administrative penalty of a 120-day driver's license suspension. Both bills were heard Tuesday in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

Erin Giannetti declined to comment yesterday and referred questions to her husband, who has won several accolades for his work opposing drunken driving, including the Mothers Against Drunk Driving Legislative Excellence Award in 2002.

She is employed by the lobbying firm Capitol Strategies and is working on two state legislative bills that would institute stiffer penalties for adults who provide alcohol to minors.

According to court records, she was arrested early Dec. 17 after nearly hitting a Maryland Transportation Authority police cruiser on the shoulder of Interstate 395 in Baltimore with the black Mercedes she was driving. She then failed several field sobriety tests before consulting with her husband and refusing the breathalyzer, records show. She asked to take a blood test, but that is not an option unless the motorist is unable to take a breath test, said Gary W. McLhinney, the transportation agency's police chief.

Erin Giannetti admitted to having five drinks that night in celebration of her graduation from the University of Maryland School of Law. At the time, she was on probation for a drunken driving conviction in Howard County in 2003, police and court records show. Terms of her probation include abstaining from alcohol.

She is charged in the Baltimore incident with attempting to drive while under the influence and refusing to sign a traffic citation. She has a court date in May and, if convicted, would face up to a year in prison and a fine of $1,800.

Her husband said drunken driving issues became a top priority for him in 1988, after his younger brother's accident. Ten years later, John Giannetti was elected to the House of Delegates, and in 2002 he won his Senate seat in a district that stretches from College Park northeast into Anne Arundel County.

The same year he became engaged to Erin Ann Appel, whom he met in 2000 when she was a student at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. They married last summer and live in Laurel.

The senator came under fire last fall for serving beer at tailgate parties before University of Maryland football games. A College Park City Council member filed a complaint with the Joint Committee for Legislative Ethics, questioning whether the parties made alcohol available to minors.

Giannetti said he had not provided alcohol to underage students and stopped serving beer at the events.

Staff researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.

03-11-2005, 07:53 AM
Expect hypocricy, he's a democrat!


Gayle in MD
03-13-2005, 06:19 AM
Boy, that's a good one, especially for this subject! You're Republican President's daughter has been arrested for the same thing. Oh, and how about his wife, how does one run through a stop sign and kill a man on a clear moonlit night, and never be charged? Where I come from that would be man slaughter...

Gayle in Md.

03-13-2005, 06:51 AM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote Gayle in MD:</font><hr> Boy, that's a good one, especially for this subject! You're Republican President's daughter has been arrested for the same thing. Oh, and how about his wife, how does one run through a stop sign and kill a man on a clear moonlit night, and never be charged? Where I come from that would be man slaughter...

Gayle in Md. <hr /></blockquote>

There are two laws in the land. Laws for the rich, and laws for the poor. Even if convicted, the time rarely fits the crime. Martha Stewart is a good example. Her "Vacation" is now turning into the best PR campain that ever existed. I expect her to come out of it all smelling like a rose and raking in even more millions, (billions?). Look for poncho's to be the next big gold mine for her. St.

03-13-2005, 10:51 AM
Spiderman expect hypocracy he is a Republican. A US Rep from the Saratoga,Washington County is drinking at Williard Mt Ski bar and leaves the bar and drives into a pole cutting off the power to the Ski lift leaving hundreds stranded on the lift.

The first one on the scene a Washington Dep. Sheriff kept the arriving ambulance crews from examinging him. He was lucky they got the power restored or he would be in Jail not Washington.

03-13-2005, 10:54 AM
Who didn't know that about Martha. Anyone with even a thimble sized amount of gamble should have bought her stock.

03-13-2005, 11:08 AM
Not hypocritical, it seems as the law stands he gave her the right advice.

03-14-2005, 08:48 AM
I'd be embarassed If I fell for anyone's silly first-ever troll! /ccboard/images/graemlins/grin.gif


03-14-2005, 09:42 AM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote SpiderMan:</font><hr> Wow, they came out the woodwork in response to my first-ever troll! /ccboard/images/graemlins/grin.gif

SpiderMan <hr /></blockquote>

Yeah, I know. It can be fun sometimes. They're like Jacks. That's a fish we have down here. They(Jacks) will even bite a raw hook when you get 'em stirred up. You can even tell 'em you're messin' with 'em and they'll still go for it.

Watch this.
<font color="blue">
George Bush is a fine man and a fine president and I am so glad we'll have him around for another four years. We need to get Jeb in there next. </font color>

03-16-2005, 08:23 AM
My wife wanted to buy some shares but it went from maybe 14 to 9 a share and I told her see. Then Sears and Kmart joined and the Tv offer and the stock went way up even though the they lost money for her time in jail. ####