One of the area's most respected judges, known nationwide for creating a family drug court, was arrested for driving under the influence.
Judge Chuck McGee was taken into custody and booked at the Washoe County Jail last night on one count of DUI and one count of failing to maintain a lane.
KOLO spoke with his colleagues in the legal community and found this surprised those who knew the judge.
They say it was unexpected, but not unforgivable.
The judges and attorneys who know Judge McGee best say he is battling a disease of alcoholism, and they hope this was a wake up call.
Judge Chuck McGee is well known as a man who founded the family drug court in Washoe County. He's built a reputation of helping substance abusers get back on their feet.
But last night a different icture was taken of Judge McGee at the Washoe County Jail. Deputies say he failed a DUI test and spent four hours in jail before being released on his own recognizance.
The arrest comes just months after McGee checked into Betty Ford for a 60-day alcohol abuse treatment.
"I never saw it and frankly neither did many of my colleagues," says Chief Judge James Hardesty.
Hardesty says he won't pass judgment on McGee, noting he has only been arrested, not convicted. "Judge McGee does not expect special treatment and he'll get no more than anyone else," he says.
But DUI is a serious charge and the state Judicial Disciplinary Commission can levy penalties up to removing the judge from the bench.
Says atorney Ken McKenna: "Alcohol is an addictive druge and causes bad judgment in even the best and brightest people."
McKenna says driving while drunk is inexcusable, but he thinks it would be too extreme to lose McGee as a judge. "Alcohol destroys our society and when you have an individual susceptible to that we must treat it as a health issue not a criminal one," he says.
The arrest was McGee's first on record in Washoe County and those close to him say they hope it will be his last.
We tried to reach Judge McGee for comment but he did not return our calls.
If he is convicted though, it could be months before we know what the state judicial commission will do - if anything.
We also don't know if he's going to take time off but, as of now, he hasn't been restricted from ruling.
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Drunk Driving Statistics
- Traffic fatalities in alcohol-related crashes rose by four percent from 1999 to
- The 16,653 alcohol-related fatalities in 2000 (40 percent of total traffic fatalities for the year) represent a 25 percent reduction from the 22,084 alcohol-related fatalities reported in 1990 (50 percent of the total).
- NHTSA estimates that alcohol was involved in 40 percent of fatal crashes and in eight percent of all crashes in 2000.
- The 16,653 fatalities in alcohol-related crashes during 2000 represent an average of one alcohol-related fatality every 32 minutes.
- An estimated 310,000 persons were injured in crashes where police reported that alcohol was present — an average of one person injured approximately every two minutes.
- Approximately 1.5 million drivers were arrested in 1999 for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics.
- This is an arrest rate of 1 for every 121 licensed drivers in the United States.
- About 3 in every 10 Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related crash at some time in their lives.
- In 2000, 31 percent of all traffic fatalities occurred in crashes in which at least one driver or nonoccupant had a BAC of 0.10 g/dl or greater. Sixty-nine percent of the 12,892 people killed in such crashes were themselves intoxicated. The remaining 31 percent were passengers, nonintoxicated drivers, or nonintoxicated nonoccupants.
- In the state of Kentucky, there were 820 total fatalities in 2000. Of those, 203 had a BAC greater than or equal to 0.10, which accounted for 25 percent of the total fatalities.
Source: www.nhtsa.dot.gov (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Web site) contributed to this report.