Char Lugar was arrested on November 18, 2009 in suburban Virginia not far from she and her husband's McLean, Virginia home after a police officer made a traffic stop after coming upon Mrs. Lugar driving her Buick with extensive front-end damage. The officer charged Lugar's wife with driving while under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident. She had struck an unattended car and continued driving towards her home. The day following her arrest, Sen. Lugar's office released the following statement:
At about 6:30 p.m. last evening, November 18, Mrs. Lugar had a traffic accident in our McLean, Virginia neighborhood. A charge has been filed and a court appearance is scheduled for January. No other persons were in her car or the unattended car she hit. Thankfully, no one was injured. We are deeply sorry and embarrassed that this accident has occurred.
Charlene Lugar has been released from the county’s detention facility, according to his office.Less than 30 days after Char's drunk driving arrest, she was still driving and was stopped yet again by a police officer and cited for speeding 43 MPH through a 25 MPH school zone in front of an elementary school at 12:20 p.m. on December 8, 2009 while driving a car with a Maryland license plate. More than six months after her initial arrest for drunk driving and leaving the scene of an accident, court records show that Char pleaded guilty in a Fairfax County, Virginia court in May, 2010 to operating a motor vehicle while having a blood alcohol level of more than .08%, a Class 1 misdemeanor. The court ordered her to pay a $250 fine and $172 in court costs and suspended her driver's license for a period of one year with restricted driving privileges to attend an alcohol awareness program, visiting her doctor's office, driving to and from a court-ordered facility and driving to and from work, even though she is not employed. Char separately paid a fine of $62 for speeding through the school zone, an infraction, in January, 2010.
So what's the problem? Well, both Sen. Lugar and his wife, Char, have an Indiana driver's license issued to them at the 3200 Highwoods Court address in Indianapolis where the couple once lived 35 years ago when Lugar was first elected to the Senate. That was the address listed on the original arrest record as shown on her driver's license, but all court notices showed Char's McLean, Virginia address on Old Dominion Road. When Wright searched Char's Indiana driving record with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, he discovered that neither Char's conviction for drunk driving nor her speeding offense were included as part of her driver's license record. In other words, she had a driver's license without any restrictions just as she had before her drunk driving arrest in November, 2009. The last recorded violation on Char's Indiana driving record was a three-month suspension she received in 1990 for driving without insurance following an accident.
Elizabeth Murphy, general counsel for the BMV, explained to Wright that both Sen. Lugar and his wife were allowed to obtain a driver's license issued by the state of Indiana despite the fact they both reside in McLean, Virginia because of a provision of the Indiana Constitution that provides that no person shall lose residence in the state while absent from the state on business of the state of Indiana or the federal government. The benefit of the constitutional protection is extended to immediate family members of Lugar as well according to Murphy. "However, I can tell you that Senator Lugar is not the only resident of Indiana to whom this would/does apply," Murphy explained in an e-mail to Wright.
Under an interstate compact Indiana has with other states like Virginia, driving-related convictions of non-residents are forwarded to a driver's state of residence so the driving offenses can be recorded and afforded the same consequences as if originally entered in the driver's home state. When Wright questioned Murphy about the reason neither Char's drunk driving arrest nor her speeding citation appeared on her Indiana driver's record, she told Wright Indiana had received no record of any convictions from Virginia authorities to apply to Char's Indiana driving record. "We have not ever received any conviction for Mrs. Lugar as you can see from her driving record," Murphy wrote in an e-mail to Wright on February 27, 2012. She explained that could be because there was no conviction in Virginia or the record of the conviction had not been forwarded to the BMV by Virginia officials. In a follow up e-mail today after Wright forwarded court records from the state of Virginia to Murphy proving Char's drunk driving conviction, Murphy wrote to Wright:
I cannot answer what happed (sic) in Virginia, nor can I answer why we didn't receive the conviction. I can only tell you that we did not receive it. Therfore, there is nothing more that I can do on this matter. Mrs. Lugar's record is accurate based on what we have received from Indiana or any other state.Wright was unable to ascertain whether Virginia authorities forwarded the information concerning Char's drunk driving conviction, but he was able to confirm the state participates in the same interstate compact agreement to which Indiana is a party that provides for the sharing of such information with motor vehicles officials in a driver's home state.