Probation May Sound Light, but Punishments Can Land Hard

BALTIMORE — On Christmas Day in 2013, Donyelle Hall and her husband, Roland Jr., gave a party for friends and family at their apartment. Mrs. Hall, a nurse’s aide for the severely disabled, had recently taken a college course in medical terminology to improve her earning potential. Mr. Hall worked as a kitchen manager. The two had married the year before.

Mrs. Hall had gifts ready for each guest — pajamas for her mother, new boots for her two grown sons. Well before midnight, the party wound down, and Mrs. Hall, who had been drinking wine, got in the car with her husband to drive two guests home. She was 40 at the time, had zero points for bad driving on her license, and had never been in trouble with the law. That was about to change.

She was stopped for speeding, failed a breathalyzer test, and was charged with drunken driving. She pleaded guilty in exchange for entering a probation program under which, provided she followed the rules, she would avoid a conviction. (read more)