DWI charges tossed for son of Hutchinson
Technical errors in citation lead to circuit court ruling
FAYETTEVILLE — A DWI conviction against William Asa Hutchinson III, the Arkansas governor’s son, was overturned Monday based in part on the difference between darkness and daylight.
A citation issued by Arkansas State Police Cpl. Joshua Arnold on Jan. 24, 2016, indicated conditions were “daylight” when Hutchinson crashed his 2015 Ford F-150 pickup into the end of a guard rail at about 2:55 a.m.
On the ticket, the location was described as mile marker 67 on Interstate 49 southbound in Fayetteville.
Arnold attempted to void that ticket and write another one indicating it was “dark” when the accident occurred on the Exit 67 ramp off Interstate 49. Mile marker 67 is just before the Exit 67 ramp.
The second citation was filed with Fayetteville District Court, where Hutchinson was tried and convicted by a judge on Nov. 30 of driving while intoxicated, careless and prohibited driving, and refusal to submit to chemical testing.
Chad Atwell of Fayetteville, Hutchinson’s attorney, said his client never received the second citation, and the statute of limitations has expired to charge him under that document.
The charges should be dismissed because Hutchinson didn’t receive “proper notice of the charges against him in violation of his due process rights,” wrote Atwell in a motion to dismiss filed Monday.
During his research, Atwell said he discovered two other tickets pertaining to the incident: the initial ticket with “VOID” stamped across the front, and the second ticket with the words “no signature required” at the bottom. All four tickets listed the same three charges.
“None of the four citations, or two numbered citations, are valid any longer,” Atwell wrote. “The lack of a valid charging instrument violates defendant’s right to
due process and his right to a speedy trial, and places Mr. Hutchinson in double jeopardy.”
Circuit Judge Mark Lindsay agreed and dismissed the case on Monday, instead of going through jury selection for Hutchinson’s appeal trial, which was to begin that morning in circuit court. Lindsay said the Fayetteville District Court verdict would be vacated.
Lindsay said the mistake appeared to be “human error on the part of the state trooper.”
Lindsay said the initial charging document can’t be voided in an Arkansas DWI case.
Under Arkansas Code Annotated 5-65-107, a charge of driving while intoxicated “shall not be reduced or dismissed,”
and the citation is to be filed with the court as soon as possible.
Bill Sadler, a spokesman for the state police, said he was looking into the different citations but had no additional information as of late Monday afternoon.
Brian Thomas, the Fayetteville city prosecutor, said he learned about the situation late last week when Atwell asked about the tickets with different citation numbers.
Thomas said he talked with Arnold.
“He had a data entry issue with [the first citation] and wanted to correct it so he went in and voided the first ticket and issued a second ticket and took it to court,” Thomas said. “Preferably, he would have just left that ticket alone. Usually, I just ask them to contact me when they think a mistake has been make on the ticket
or charging instrument.”
Thomas said Hutchinson didn’t take a blood alcohol test or breath test after the accident, but the trooper said he did smell alcohol coming from Hutchinson.
“I initially observed the operator’s eyes were bloodshot and watery and there was a strong odor of intoxicants coming from the cab of the pickup,” Arnold wrote in his incident report.
Hutchinson told Arnold he was OK but had dozed off behind the wheel, according to the report. Arnold indicated Hutchinson swayed when he walked from the vehicle. Hutchinson told Arnold he was trying to drive home to Rogers after an event in Fayetteville. Arnold informed him he was going the wrong way.
Arnold searched Hutchinson and found a 9 mm Glock pistol in his jacket pocket, according to the report.
Arnold observed six clues that indicate intoxication, according to his report.
“I asked the driver to continue field sobriety tests, and he declined,” wrote Arnold.
Atwell said they were looking forward to a jury trial on Monday.
“Although Mr. Hutchinson and I were looking forward to a jury deliberating on all the evidence in this matter, we are pleased with the court’s ruling this morning, which exonerates him of these charges,” said Atwell.
Hutchinson, 41, is a Rogers lawyer who practiced with his father before his father was elected governor in 2014.
J.R. Davis, a spokesman for Gov. Asa Hutchinson, said the governor had no comment regarding his son’s case.