One of the hazards of being a political candidate is that any past indiscretions become food for the media. In some cases, the past incident is relatively minor and may quickly recede into the background; in other cases, the past incident may be serious enough to haunt and potentially derail the present candidacy. New Jersey gym owner Ian Smith is facing just such a conundrum after he was arrested and charged with drunk driving.
The incident – and the background
Ian Smith is an announced Republican candidate for Congress who gained fame and political support by opposing the state’s shut down during the Covid-19 pandemic. He was recently charged with drunk driving, refusing to take a breath test, reckless driving, careless driving, failure to observed marked traffic lanes and delaying traffic. For many candidates, such a news story would be painful but it might fade away during the heat of the campaign. Unfortunately for Smith, he must deal with a longer back story than most candidates.
Several years ago, Smith was convicted of killing a teenager after a prior night’s drinking. Smith served five years in prison for the crime, but his explanation for his recent arrest lacks any sort of credibility. He said in Instagram that no one “explained the dangers” of driving with alcohol still in your blood stream. Adding to Smith’s woes is the notoriety that he and his partner in the gym gained by their decision to ignore Gov. Murphy’s order closing all gyms and other small businesses during the first six months of the pandemic.
What happens next?
Smith is facing more than the risk of conviction for drunk driving and the related offenses. If he is convicted, the sentence will be increased due to his prior conviction. No one can predict how the current incident will affect his political fortunes, but the effect is not likely to be positive. Anyone facing similar charges, especially during a campaign for public office, will want to raise all possible defenses to the charges. A knowledgeable criminal defense attorney can assist by evaluating the evidence, suggesting potential defense arguments, and, if appropriate, attempt to negotiate an acceptable plea agreement.