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Hamilton County judge pleads guilty to reckless driving

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Longtime Hamilton Superior Judge William J. Hughes pleaded guilty Monday in a North Carolina court, avoiding a drunken driving conviction for a lesser count of reckless driving that means a year of unsupervised probation.

The judge’s guilty plea comes about six months after he was arrested while vacationing along the Outer Banks of North Carolina. His blood alcohol content of 0.13 was nearly twice as high as the state’s legal limit of 0.08, and he was charged with misdemeanor driving while impaired and a traffic infraction of driving left of center.

At a hearing Monday in the Currituck County District Court, Judge Hughes pleaded guilty to reckless driving. His sentence is 12 months of unsupervised probation, and he must enroll and complete an alcohol and drug assessment program within 180 days or attend at least 10 hours of substance abuse counseling, as well as not operate a vehicle within eight hours of consuming any alcohol. The judge also paid a $300 fine and $143 in court costs.

Judge Hughes retained Teague & Glover in Elizabeth City, N.C. on the criminal charges, but attorney Keith Teague couldn’t be reached this morning and the judge was out of his office today.

First joining the bench in 1988, Judge Hughes does not have any previous discipline history with the Indiana system. The judge self-reported his out-of-state arrest to the Indiana Judicial Qualifications Commission. Generally, any disciplinary charges come once the criminal case is complete. The Indiana Supreme Court would make any final decision on discipline once that process begins. In the past, other trial judges who’ve faced drunken-driving charges have received public reprimands for similar conduct.

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