OMAHA, Neb. — A Nebraska commission has reprimanded a judge for letting an intoxicated woman enter a guilty plea.
The Nebraska Judicial Qualifications Commission filed a decision this week that said Douglas County Judge Lawrence Barrett should’ve known the defendant was likely too intoxicated to enter a competent guilty plea, the Omaha World-Herald reported .
The Fifth Amendment says a defendant must “knowingly, willingly, intelligently and voluntarily” enter a plea.
Sarah Carr was arrested in Lincoln in 2016 on suspicion of drunk driving. She was accused of violating a reckless driving probation term and scheduled to go to court.
But when she appeared in court in February 2017, her aunt told the judge that Carr was “passed out in the car” after having been drinking the previous night.
The aunt and a court official retrieved Carr from the vehicle, put her in a wheelchair and brought her into the courtroom.
The prosecutor and Douglas County public defender Deborah Lee told the judge that Carr would plead guilty. Barrett sentenced Carr to 90 days in jail. A breath test administered after the sentence showed that Carr had a blood-alcohol content of .44, a level that could be deadly, according to toxicology experts.
Carr has said she has little to no memory of the sentencing.
In other cases, judges have typically administered a breath test before the sentencing. Defense attorneys then ask for the case to be delayed.
Barrett gave Carr the opportunity to withdraw the plea after newpaper inquiries regarding the sentencing. Carr declined.
Richard Bird, Carr’s father, said he doesn’t support the reprimand.
“Judge Barrett made the best decision he could have ever made,” Bird said. “We needed to dry her out.”
The commission decision said that Barrett cooperated with the commission’s investigation and no further discipline would be needed.
Barrett didn’t return the newspaper’s request seeking comment.
Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com