Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Unethical Speeding?

A lawyer was suspended by consent for four months in South Carolina, retroactive to an interim suspension, in connection with five matters. Three involved speeding--one driving 140 mph in a 70 zone. A fourth matter involved a traffic stop during which marijuana was discovered. The charges were dismissed but the lawyer admitted he may have made misleading statements to the police.

The court described the remaining matter:

On September 21, 2007, respondent took his dog to a veterinary clinic for treatment.  Later the same day, respondent called the clinic to speak with the veterinarian.  The office manager informed respondent that the veterinarian was with a customer and unable to take his telephone call.  According to the office manager, respondent used vile and profane language during the conversation.  The office manager filed an incident report with the police department and, as a result, respondent was charged with unlawful use of a telephone.  

On November 19, 2008, respondent’s case was heard before a Spartanburg Magistrate.  Respondent’s counsel moved to dismiss the charge arguing that an unlawful use of telephone charge required that the telephone call be made with the intent and sole purpose of conveying an unsolicited obscene or imminently threatening message or to harass the recipient.  Respondent’s counsel asserted the purpose of respondent’s telephone call to the veterinary clinic was neither unsolicited nor made for the sole purpose of harassing or threatening the office manager.  The magistrate dismissed the charge against respondent. 

Respondent admits he used some inappropriate language during his telephone conversation with the office manager.  He represents that, at the time of the incident, he was very emotional due to the condition of his pet.  Respondent apologizes for his conduct.

Is speeding really an ethical violation? The 140 mph case was pled down to 92 mph. Under the circumstances, I'd be more concerned about the driver's license than the law license. (Mike Frisch)


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Apparently, there are no limits today to what can form the basis of an ethical violation.

One interesting point. In many states today, speeding above a certain level, often 20 MPH over the speed limit or possibly above a certain maximum figure, is not considered speeding but, rather, reckless driving. Reckless driving has historically required a mens rea showing of knowingly or recklessly acting in a way that risks harm to others. On the other hand, speeding is a strict liability crime. So these statutes have in effect re-labelled the strict liability crime of speeding to be what is commonly understood to be a mens rea crime. Is this even constitutional?


Posted by: FixedWing | Apr 21, 2009 11:18:22 AM

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