DWI charges tossed for son of Hutchin­son

Tech­ni­cal er­rors in ci­ta­tion lead to cir­cuit court rul­ing

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - BILL BOWDEN

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.

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Hutchin­son III

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