An Assistant DA in Texas was recently fired after she flashed her badge during a traffic stop while she was sitting in the passenger’s seat of her friend’s car. Apparently, it wasn’t her attempt to “pull rank” that got her fired, though—rather, it was the sound legal advice she gave to her friend:
A Bexar County assistant district attorney has been fired following an incident in which she was mentioned in a friend’s driving while intoxicated arrest report for advising him not to submit to a breath test.
Tara D. Richardson, who had worked as a misdemeanor family justice unit prosecutor for less than a year, also “flashed her badge” during the May 25 encounter, according to the San Antonio Police Department document.
In some states, this would be bad legal advice. In New York State, for example, there is an draconian “implied consent” law which states that refusing a breathalyzer test is grounds for an automatic license suspension for one year, plus a $500 fine. The police officer does not even have to inform you of this consequence, and the suspension applies “whether or not the person is found guilty of the charge for which such person is arrested or detained.” So assuming you don’t have a large record, one should submit to a breathalyzer test in New York.
The law is presumably different in Texas. I’m not familiar with the Texas criminal code, but the prosecutor clearly knew something her friend didn’t. And apparently, someone upstairs didn’t like the fact that this prosecutor was giving away the game. As Mark Bennett said, “imagine what would happen if people learned that even prosecutors advised their friends not to blow.”
It’s always interesting to see how prosecutors behave when they’re on the other side of the law. Prosecution work has a tendency to corrupt you, in the sense that staring into the abyss of criminal justice from on high makes you a bit self-righteous. I’ve heard enough career prosecutors speak passionately about putting crooks in jail to know what their priorities are when it comes to defining “justice.” It’s not that fair-minded prosecutors don’t exist—they do. But they exist in spite of their institutional incentives, not on account of them. Working as a prosecutor tends to make you a bit more retributive-minded than you otherwise would be. For some, all it takes is a few horror shows to permanently change your opinion of humanity. For others, they get caught up in the thrill of “the hunt.” Crime fighting becomes a competition, a game where convictions are lighting up the scoreboard.
But all that changes when all of a sudden, it’s your friends getting questioned by the cops. All of that changes when you are in the passenger’s seat, and you’re sitting next to a scared friend who’s just been pulled over, and they’ve got just a touch too much alcohol in their system.
Tara Richardson may have crossed the line when she flashed her prosecutor’s badge. If she was fired for doing so, it’s understandable. But if she was fired for advising her friend “not to blow,” it’s a shame. All she was doing was advising her friend of his legal rights—something prosecutors are supposed to respectful of anyways. Now, she’ll probably never work in a prosecutor’s office again, although she probably has a promising career as a criminal defense attorney, now that she’s experienced what it’s like to be on the other side first-hand.