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In re Dempsey

Supreme Court of New Jersey

June 25, 2019

In the Matter of Stephen P. Dempsey An Attorney At Law

          Argued: February 21, 2019

         District Docket No. XIV-2017-0483E

          Amanda W. Figland appeared on behalf of the Office of Attorney Ethics.

          Respondent appeared pro se.

          Ellen A. Brodsky Chief Counsel

          DECISION

         To the Honorable Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of New Jersey.

         This matter was before us on a motion for final discipline filed by the Office of Attorney Ethics (OAE), pursuant to R. l:20-13(c), following respondent's guilty plea to the fourth-degree crime of operation of a motor vehicle during a period of a driver's license suspension (second or subsequent violation), in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:40-26b, and driving under the influence, in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-50. The OAE recommends that we impose a reprimand and conditions. For the reasons set forth below, we agree with the OAE's recommendation.

         Respondent was admitted to the New Jersey and New York bars in 2001. At the relevant time, he maintained a law office in Summit, New Jersey. He has no history of discipline.

         The Union County Prosecutor filed an indictment charging respondent with the fourth-degree crime of unlawfully operating a motor vehicle during a period of license suspension, second violation, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:40-26b. The Summit City Police Department also charged respondent with violations of N.J.S.A. 39:4-96, reckless driving; N.J.S.A. 39:4-50, driving while intoxicated (DWI);[1] and N.J.S.A. 39:3-40, driving while driver's license was suspended or revoked (second violation). According to the OAE's motion, respondent's operation of the vehicle on July 17, 2017, while under the influence, resulted in "a crash."

         On February 26, 2018, respondent appeared before the Honorable John M. Deitch, J.S.C., Superior Court of New Jersey, Union County, Law Division, Criminal Part, and entered a guilty plea to the indictment. Respondent admitted that, on July 17, 2017, while his license was suspended, he operated a motor vehicle in Summit, New Jersey, and that his license had been suspended previously for a prior "DWI" conviction. Respondent admitted that he had been convicted of "DUI on more than two occasions." As part of the plea agreement, the State dismissed the driving while suspended charge, N.J.S.A. 39:3-40.

         Prior to the April 13, 2018 sentencing before Judge Deitch, respondent and the Union County Prosecutor entered into a plea agreement on the outstanding charges. At the sentencing hearing, respondent entered a guilty plea to driving under the influence. In return, the reckless driving charge was dismissed.

         During the sentencing hearing, respondent admitted that, on July 17, 2017, he operated a vehicle after consuming approximately four to five glasses of wine and an "old-fashioned." He acknowledged that, at the time, he was under the influence of the alcohol, which impaired his ability to operate the vehicle. Respondent's submission to an Alcotest breath-testing device resulted in a reading of 0.18 percent.[2]

         At that hearing, respondent's counsel noted that respondent was very fortunate that the accident had not resulted in any injuries. Respondent acknowledged that he was aware of the consequences of his actions, and that they were "reckless and showed a disregard for . . . the law and people's safety." He was ashamed and regretted his conduct. Respondent hoped to avoid similar situations, adding that he was in a program that helped him with stress and other difficulties.

         The judge found, as aggravating factors, respondent's prior alcohol use and the need to deter him from engaging in future similar conduct. The judge found, as a mitigating factor, that respondent was likely to respond affirmatively to treatment and counseling to deal with stress and alcohol problems. Further, the judge found that respondent was "solemn and appropriately apologetic," as well ...


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