Lawyer's Self-defense Wins His Own Acquittal

December 02, 1990|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff writer

Bel Air lawyer Stuart L. Alison came to his own defense Thursday, winning his acquittal on a drunken driving charge by arguing that the 1989 state police Trooper of the Year didn't follow proper procedures in the arrest.

This was the second time Alison has been charged with driving while intoxicated. In the first incident, in 1986, he was convicted.

Alison had requested that Thursday's trial in Harford District Court be postponed when his attorney, Lawrence P. Pinno Jr. of Bel Air, couldn't appear for the trial.

Pinno had informed the court in a letter that he had to appear in Howard County Circuit Court for a case at the same time Alison's trial was scheduled.

Baltimore County District Judge John P. Rellas, a visiting judge hearing the case, refused to grant the postponement. Alison proceeded to represent himself, questioning witnesses and moving that the charge be dismissed.

"Even in the most favorable light, I think the evidence elicited by the state is insufficient," Alison told the judge.

Alison, a Street resident, was charged with driving while intoxicated after he was stopped on U.S. 1 near Dublin on May 17 by Tfc. Jerry Scarborough, named 1989 Trooper of the Year.

Among his credits for the award, police administrators cited Scarborough for the high number of drunken driving arrests he has made.

Alison argued that the charge should be dismissed because Scarborough signed the citation issued to him before Alison was charged and taken into custody.

Assistant State's Attorney Mark W. Nelson, who prosecuted the case, argued that Scarborough and many other police officers often sign all blank citations issued to them so they are ready when needed.

But Rellas agreed with Alison's argument, saying that standard procedures require police officers to sign citations after the defendant signs the document.

During testimony, Scarborough said that while he was traveling south on U.S. 1 near Dublin, a Ford Bronco, driven by Alison, forced him onto the road's shoulder when the vehicle nearly crossed the center line.

Scarborough, who was driving an unmarked police cruiser, said he turned his vehicle around and pursued the Bronco.

Scarborough testified that he followed Alison for about a mile before stopping him and saw the Bronco swerve back and forth several times.

After Scarborough stopped the Bronco, Alison got out of his vehicle and gave the trooper his vehicle registration card. Alison "fumbled" through his wallet as he got his driver's license, Scarborough testified.

Scarborough told the court he smelled alcohol on Alison's breath and saw an open bottle of beer in the Bronco. Scarborough testified he saw a boy, thought to be about 4, also in the vehicle.

Alison refused to take field sobriety tests, Scarborough said. Alison agreed to take a preliminary breath test if there was a witness, but then refused the test when another trooper arrived, Scarborough testified.

Under cross-examination by Alison, Scarborough said he did not observe any problems with the lawyer's ability to get into the police car and then out of the vehicle when they got to the state police barracks.

Alison asked Scarborough why the trooper did not cite him for traffic violations. Rellas also questioned Scarborough about that decision. The trooper said he usually does not file additional citations when he files drunken driving charges.

Alison was found guilty of driving while intoxicated in 1986 and sentenced to 18 months' probation, according to county Circuit Court records.

In addition, the lawyer was found guilty of harassment in 1987 and hindering a police officer in 1988, court records show.

Alison was ordered to pay a $50 fine for the harassment conviction, according to records. He was given a 30-day suspended sentence for the hindering charge.

Alison was suspended from practicing law for 90 days by the state Court of Special Appeals in November 1989.

That suspension was extended to June 1990 when it was determined that Alison practiced law during the suspension, a spokesman for the Attorney Grievance Commission said.

Alison's suspension came as a result of those convictions and inappropriate courtroom behavior, said Melvin Hirshman, counsel for the commission.

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