Judge Lynn Rosenthal's mugshot
Judge Lynn Rosenthal’s mugshot ()

Broward Circuit Judge Lynn Rosenthal pleaded no contest Wednesday to reckless driving after she was arrested on a charge of driving under the influence May 27.

Palm Beach Assistant State Attorney Michael Smith said the state agreed to the plea to the lesser misdemeanor charge because he felt a conviction was unlikely for driving under the influence of Ambien, a prescription medication that Rosenthal blamed for the incident.

Rosenthal drove recklessly on I-595 into downtown Fort Lauderdale on her way to work the morning of her arrest, according to the Broward sheriff’s report. She was detained after hitting a parked sheriff’s patrol car and a parking lot gate.

Video from her cell phone showed she hit a concrete barricade on the interstate and kept going, weaving in traffic toward downtown.

Defense attorney Brian Silber told Miami-Dade County Court Judge Bill Altfield that Rosenthal completed 25 hours of community service and other requirement for a reckless driving sentence. Silber said she was evaluated by a psychologist, who concluded she did not have a substance abuse problem and did not need treatment.

After Altfield concluded the hearing, Silber blamed Rosenthal’s doctor for mistakenly doubling her prescription dose.

Rosenthal did not attend the hearing.

When Rosenthal was taken into custody, personal items included a bottle of the anti-anxiety drug Xanax. Smith was asked about the Xanax and why charges against Rosenthal didn’t mention the drug. Silber said Rosenthal didn’t have Xanax in her system and had not taken the medication for weeks.

Smith said the state had evidence that she had Xanax in the car and her behavior was consistent with someone under the influence of Ambien. He also said Rosenthal admitted taking Ambien.

The timing of the arrest created an election issue for Rosenthal. Frantz Jahra McLawrence, a criminal defense attorney, is challenging her in the August primary.

McLawrence has argued Rosenthal would have presided over cases in an impaired state if she hasn’t been arrested.

During the arrest, Rosenthal consented to give a urine sample but refused to give blood. Silber defended her decision, noting it was illegal for the officer to request a blood sample unless the accident involved bodily injury, and no one was injured.

Altfield and Smith, who are from outside Broward County, handled the case to avoid the appearance of conflicts.