Orange County assistant public defender Derreck Quarles has been arrested for DUI on his birthday. This isn’t the first time and probably not the last time a public official gets arrested. However, the circumstances surrounding his arrest, police dashcam video evidence of the arrest, and the statements of Public Defender Robert Wesley are certainly some of the most damning and strangest I’ve seen in quite some time.
The police video shows a man stopped by a female police officer begging to be taken home rather than arrested. The video footage of his field sobriety test shows Quarles’ struggling to walk a straight line. In spite of everything, Quarles doesn’t attempt to declare his innocence but rather tells the officer that “I’ve never been in trouble in my life, you see my record. I’ve never been in trouble in my life.” As a lawyer, Quarles should know this has no bearing on whether he should be arrested for DUI. Instead of keeping quiet, Quarles continues to talk and talk, all of which will surely be used against him in trial. In addition, Quarles took a breathalyzer which showed a .213 and .211, almost three times the state’s legal limit of .08.
Making matters worse, the Public Defender made strange and irrelevant comments about the arrest. “He had a bad night, made bad choices and we stand by him. There’s nothing that we’re seeing to indicate that he doesn’t have the ability or the discipline to manage a caseload,” Public Defender Robert Wesley said. If that wasn’t bad enough, Wesley continued, “The reason we’re in business is for this reason: is because people make mistakes. And we’re going to work with him and have him get through this, and understand it doesn’t tarnish him as a human being.”
People do indeed make mistakes but Quarles and Wesley have fiduciary obligations to the public. They are officers of the court. Quarles was recently hired as a public defender representing juveniles.
I’ve seen DUI arrests where the one arrested has talked his way into a conviction. The less said the better. Lawyers should know better than this. As an officer of the court who handles DUI defense cases, my job is to represent my clients regardless of their guilt or innocence. A lawyer whose best defense in a DUI case is the person’s character will be on the wrong side of the law. If you drive impaired, it doesn’t matter if you’re a “good person”. That has no bearing on the matter at hand. What kind of example is offered when the public defender makes those kinds of statements? Justice has to treat all people equitably. Justice is and should be blind to these factors. Lawyers, especially public defenders should know better and act accordingly.