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Turned in by Toddler, Lawyer Sanctioned

At the Redding, Calif., accident scene was an overturned car, but no one in it. Finding a purse belonging to the wife of lawyer Justin G. Arel, police went to Arel's house to investigate. When he refused to answer the door, the officers, concerned for the safety of his family, broke in.

Arel's wife had gone to the hospital for treatment of a laceration and left him home with their two young children. When police questioned him about the accident, he denied being the driver and said he had been home sleeping. But police had good reason to suspect he was lying -- Arel's five-year-old son told the officers that his dad had indeed been the driver of the overturned car.

On top of that, the police suspected that Arel was intoxicated. He performed poorly on two field sobriety tests and refused to take a third. They arrested him and found that he had a blood alcohol level of .12 percent, four points above the legal limit.

This tale of a lawyer ratted out by a five-year-old comes courtesy of the California Bar Journal. The incident resulted in four felony charges against Arel, including child abuse and causing injury while driving under the influence. He eventually pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of driving under the influence and causing bodily injury to another.

It also resulted in a disciplinary sanction against him of a one-year suspension, stayed; an actual 60-day suspension; two years of probation; and a requirement that he take the MPRE within a year. The State Bar Court found that his conduct involved moral turpitude.

"It is of particular concern that at a time when [his] wife was in the hospital and his two young children had yet to be examined for internal injuries, [Arel's] sole focus was to convince the officers that he was not the driver,” wrote the judge. Weighing on the side of mitigation, the judge found, was that Arel had never before been disciplined and performs extensive community service.

As Art Linkletter would have observed, Kids say the darndest things.

[Hat tip to Legal Profession Blog.]

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on October 7, 2009 at 02:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

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