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Bay Area Criminal Defense Blog

A Priest, a Rabbi and a Minister Drive Home From a Bar

Posted by Lynn Gorelick | Sep 17, 2015 | 0 Comments

It may sound like the lead in to a terrible joke, but this headline is meant to illustrate that no one is immune from a DUI arrest. We've reported on politicians, law enforcement, and professional athletes getting arrested for driving under the influence. People of faith are no exception; and even religious leaders can make a simple mistake that could lead to a DUI arrest here in the East Bay, or anywhere across the country.

A cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church was recently arrested in Hawaii on suspicion of driving under the influence. Cardinal William Joseph Levada, of Menlo Park, was a former archbishop in San Francisco, and is one of the highest-ranking American officials in the church.

On the Big Island, near Kona, a police officer witnessed a vehicle swerving along Queen Kaahumanu Highway and crossing over the median. After a traffic stop, Levada was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving, and released from jail after posting $500 bail. He is due in Kona District Court later this month. In a statement released through the Archdiocese of San Francisco, Levada said he regretted his error in judgement.

A Brooklyn Episcopalian minister was arrested in New York, after she was found weaving through the Holland Tunnel. Drivers who were witness to the erratic driving called 911 to report the vehicle en route to New Jersey. After Diane Reiners was pulled over, an open bottle of vodka was found in the center console, along with painkillers and other drugs prescribed to someone else. Reiners apparently used to use the Twitter handle @unrulypastor.

A Minnesota Rabbi admitted to members of her Temple Israel congregation that she was cited for driving while intoxicated, and called it the most difficult thing she's had to do in her 11 years of service. Rabbi Amy Bernstein was pulled over for doing 74 in a 55 miles per hour zone. She admitted to sharing a bottle of wine with two other people, but the deputy reported Bernstein was not cooperating with a breath test request. After being taken to the police station, she registered a 0.11% BAC. She pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor DWI.

In a much more serious incident, a former bishop with the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland struck a deal with prosecutors, pleading guilty to vehicular manslaughter and driving while intoxicated in the death of a bicyclist in Baltimore. Heather Cook had only recently taken the position as the first female bishop with the diocese when the fatal accident occurred.

Cook admitted to leaving the scene, returning half an hour later, when her blood alcohol level was still nearly 3 times the legal limit. While she initially plead not guilty to 13 counts against her, the plea was changed, according to Cook's attorney, because “we wanted closure for them and us.” The state attorney recommended 10 years in jail, with 5 years of probation.

A DUI can affect anyone, even faith leaders. With more than 30 years of experience defending people facing a DUI in the East Bay, Lynn Gorelick understands the laws and penalties involved. If you are arrested for driving under the influence, you don't have to let your arrest end in a conviction. Contact a local East Bay DUI defense attorney who understands the DUI charges you are facing, and is familiar with the local prosecutors and courts.

About the Author

Lynn Gorelick

Lynn Gorelick has been an attorney for 30 years. She is the Attorney Lynn Gorelick is the President of the California DUI Lawyers Association and a Faculty and Sustaining member of the National College of DUI Defense.

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