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Attorney Defendant Suspended for DWI

This matter deals with the respondent, Philip S. Lapenta, who is an attorney. The petitioner in the matters is the Grievance Committee fro the Tenth Judicial District. The case is being heard in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Second Department, Appellate Division.

Case Background

A New York Criminal Lawyer said the respondent was admitted to the bar on the 21st of February, 1973. On the 19th of March, 2008, the Tenth Judicial District Grievance Committee served the respondent with a verified petition that contained four charges of misconduct.

A preliminary conference and hearing were held in regard to the charges. During this conference the Special Referee sustained all four of the charges that were made against the respondent. The Tenth Judicial District Grievance Committee has not moved to confirm the report made by the Special Referee and to impose a discipline that is just and proper according to the court.

The respondent has submitted letters in mitigation and affidavits in response to the motion to confirm the report. He urges the court to allow him to continue his legal practice without interruption.

Charges

The first charge that is made against the respondent is that he was found guilty of conduct that reflects adversely on his trustworthiness and honesty as a lawyer, which is in violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility.

On the 8th of September, 2005, the respondent was arrested for driving while intoxicated. A Bronx Criminal Lawyer said he pleaded guilty to these charges on the 4th of November, 2005. He was sentenced to three years of probation with narcotic and alcohol conditions. This included that he complete the drinking driver program through the state of New York Department of Motor Vehicles. His license was taken away for six months and he was fined $500.

The second charge against the defendant comes from a second arrest that occurred on the 20th of February, 2006, when he was driving while intoxicated again (DWI). For this crime he was sentenced to sixty days in a Stop DWI Program. He could not apply for driving privileges without permission from the probation office or the court.

The third and fourth charges against the respondent are the same, each accusing the defendant of being found guilty of conduct that reflects adversely on his trustworthiness and honesty as a lawyer, which is in violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility.

Court Discussion and Decision

In regard to the discipline that should be invoked, the defendant has requested that the court consider the fact that no one was hurt in any of the incidents and no accident had occurred. After he was arrested the respondent voluntarily stopped practicing law and is continuing treatment on a voluntary basis. He complies with the medications he is given and states that his performance as an attorney has not been affected by alcohol.

After reviewing the facts of the case the court affirms the report made by the Special Referee. The respondent will be suspended from practicing law for a time period of six months. He has leave to apply for reinstatement of his license a month before the expiration of the six month time frame. This is contingent upon prove that he has not been in violation of the terms of his probation and that he has enrolled in the Lawyers Assistance Program.

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