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Defense attorney says her DUI arrest a ‘blessing in disguise’

By Kerri Sandaine Lewiston Tribune

ASOTIN – An Asotin County public defender facing a DUI charge made her first appearance as a defendant Tuesday in District Court.

Sarah M. McFadden, who was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence late Saturday night, was arraigned on the misdemeanor charge in Judge Tina Kernan’s courtroom.

After leaving the Asotin County Courthouse, McFadden told the Tribune she is seeking a deferred prosecution and outpatient treatment for substance abuse after being arrested late Saturday night in Clarkston.

“This was a blessing in disguise,” McFadden said. “I’ve been trying to find help, but it was hard as an attorney to attend (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings because I kept running into clients.”

McFadden said she met with her clients Monday night at the Asotin County Jail to explain the situation and give them an opportunity to get a new attorney. In addition, Superior Court Judge Scott Gallina is expected to send letters to the people she represents.

McFadden is one of three public defenders on contract to provide indigent defense in Asotin County Superior Court. She began work here Feb. 1 and is listed as an attorney on 108 cases, according to the clerk’s office.

This week she has been handling cases as usual in Asotin County Superior Court, while getting rides to and from the courthouse.

“For the most part, people have been supportive,” McFadden said. “I think a lot of people struggle with this. Being an attorney is a stressful job.”

McFadden said she plans to continue working while going through intensive outpatient treatment for her addiction. Random drug tests, weekly meetings and counseling will be part of the program, she said.

How the DUI charge will affect her legal career is still up in the air.

“I’m on a short leash with Asotin County,” McFadden said. “I’m sure the (Washington State) Bar Association will be notified and launch an investigation, and there could be sanctions.”

McFadden’s next appearance in District Court is in two weeks.

To be eligible for a deferred prosecution on the charge, McFadden must be diagnosed as alcohol or drug dependent, enroll in treatment and successfully complete the recommended program. After five years of probation, the DUI case can be dismissed, if she meets all the terms.

According to court documents, her vehicle was impounded and searched with a warrant after a deputy found what appeared to be cocaine or crushed methamphetamine in the car.

If drugs were found during a search of her impounded vehicle, a felony charge could be filed against her in Superior Court.

Asotin County Prosecutor Ben Nichols said all police reports connected to McFadden’s arrest are being sent to a prosecutor in another county to determine whether additional charges are warranted.

The Asotin County commissioners were notified about the situation Monday, said Commission Chairman Chris Seubert.

“We talked to Judge Gallina and he assured us she will be closely monitored,” Seubert said. “At this point, she is still fulfilling her contract. If she fails to do so in the future, we will have to let her go. We wish her the best.”

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