State Rep. Francis “Chip” Baltimore, a Boone Republican who has pushed for legislation to keep drunken drivers off the roads, pleaded guilty Friday to driving while intoxicated in January, court records show.
Baltimore pleaded guilty to operating while intoxicated and possession of a dangerous weapon while under the influence. In court documents, he admitted to driving while under the influence of alcohol Jan. 19 in Ames, and while he was intoxicated, he had a weapon in his possession.
Prosecutors and Baltimore’s attorney have asked the judge to sentence the 51-year-old state representative to probation with the Center for Creative Justice for a year for each charge. He will also be fined a $1,250 civil penalty, must undergo substance abuse evaluation and will be required to complete a drinking and driving school.
Baltimore, a lawyer who was removed as chairman of the Iowa House Judiciary Committee after his arrest, told an Ames police officer he had been en route to his home in Boone after attending meetings in Des Moines, according to court records.
A police report stated Baltimore consented to a chemical breath test on a state certified device which registered his blood alcohol content at 0.147. The legal limit for operating while intoxicated is .08.
Baltimore was stopped by an Ames police officer shortly before 4 a.m. after authorities received a report of a reckless driver traveling northbound on Interstate Highway 35. The vehicle was described as operating at varying speeds and swerving in and out of its lane, according to the court documents.
The police report said Baltimore was driving a dark-colored 2014 Ford Explorer when an officer observed him traveling at about 55 mph in a 70 mph zone that was entering a 65 mph zone. He was pulled over by police near U.S. Highway 30 westbound and Dayton Ave.
The officer said Baltimore had slurred speech, bloodshot watery eyes, slowed movements and admitted to drinking about three drinks with the last drink being three hours earlier, and his breath smelled of alcohol. The lawmaker stepped out of his vehicle and failed a walk and turn test, police said.
After Baltimore was placed under arrest for a first offense of operating while intoxicated, he admitted to an officer that he had a Smith & Wesson handgun under his driver’s seat.
Baltimore was able to produce a concealed carry permit issued by the Boone County Sheriff’s Office, and he was transported to the Story County Jail. Court records show that Baltimore was also cited for improper use of lanes.
Baltimore, who is an Oskaloosa native, is serving his fourth term in the Iowa House after initially winning election in 2010.
As chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Baltimore presided over discussions on proposals to curb drunken driving. Two years ago, lawmakers began considering a bill to require people convicted of an alcohol-related offense, including driving while intoxicated, to check in at a law enforcement office twice a day and take a breath test. Those who tested positive for alcohol or some other drug would face immediate consequences, including being taken to jail.
The bill failed to win final approval in 2016, but last year a version of the proposal was passed by lawmakers and signed into law by Gov. Terry Branstad. The program, however, will only be used in Iowa counties that volunteer to implement it.
Numerous attempts have been made in recent years to require all people arrested for driving while intoxicated to install ignition interlocks in their vehicles. When a driver with alcohol on their breath blows into the device, the vehicle won’t start. The proposal, which is expected to be proposed again this year, has never made it the floor of both the Senate and House for debate.
In late 2016, Baltimore told the Register that he did not know of a lawmaker who was “pro-drunk driver.”
“I think there’s a big group of caring people who want to make sure we keep drunk drivers off the street,” he said at the time. “There’s just disagreement on how we are going to do that and who is going to pay for it.”