The case, or non case against Superior Court Judge Howard Simms only has to answer one essential question. Did the judge receive preferential treatment when stopped in the multi-agency traffic operation Rolling Thunder last weekend?
Preliminary reports say the judge’s alcohol breath test was 0.083. The legal limit is 0.08, however, officers and deputies can make a DUI case on less than a 0.08.
This follows another 2010 incident when a Macon police officer stopped Simms for driving erratically and smelled alcohol, but did not give a field sobriety test. The officer obviously felt Simms was impaired because the officer gave Simms a ride to his child’s baseball game at Freedom Park.
Another disturbing item is the judge’s own press release issued Tuesday that stated, “Following a traffic stop on Saturday, Sept. 22, Simms came upon a roadblock and was tested for the presence of alcohol. He was not charged with any offenses and returned home under his own power.”
The question is, how many people who have an alcohol breath test of 0.083 are allowed to drive themselves home? But notice, the statement didn’t say “drive.” Did he walk? Was a call made and someone picked him up? Was he followed home by an offficer? Or, as in a prior case, did an officer or deputy drive him home? Those questions must be answered.
We are pleased the judge has decided to seek professional help for what he calls “alcohol addiction.” Whether that will be enough for the Judicial Qualifications Commission, the state agency that investigates judges’ behavior, is another matter. The judge, just as the people who come before him, should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
-- The Editorial Board