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UPDATE: Hamilton Superior judge surprised by case resolution

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In all his years on the bench, Hamilton Superior Judge William J. Hughes said he hasn’t experienced what he did this week as a defendant in a North Carolina court.

The longtime judge spoke with Indiana Lawyer Tuesday about his criminal drunk driving case stemming from an Oct. 27 arrest. He was pulled over and arrested in the Outer Banks for driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.13 - nearly twice the state’s legal limit of 0.08.

He was charged with misdemeanor driving while impaired and traffic infraction of driving left of center, and Judge Hughes said he traveled to North Carolina on Monday for what he expected to be his trial on those two counts.

Instead, the judge said he arrived at the Currituck District Court that morning to find a new reckless driving charge against him. After about five minutes before the bench there for an arraignment, Judge Hughes said he followed his attorney’s advice and pleaded guilty to the new reckless driving charge, a Class 2 misdemeanor under state statute §20-140(b).

His criminal sanction: 12 months of unsupervised probation that includes enrolling and completing an alcohol and drug assessment program within 180 days or attending at least 10 hours of substance abuse counseling. Additionally, he stipulated that he won’t operate a vehicle within eight hours of consuming any alcohol and paid a $300 fine and $143 in court costs.

“I was surprised by the resolution and quite frankly, pleased with it,” he said. “I’m not satisfied that this result had to happen, but under the circumstances I believe it was the best result that I could have ever expected. I’m certainly not happy with my conduct. I’ve learned many life lessons from this, though I’m sorry that this is how I came to learn them.”

Judge Hughes said the process in that North Carolina court was different than he’s seen before, and he came away from that experience also seeing what it’s like on the other side of the bench and how it can be confusing to defendants. Since his arrest, Judge Hughes said he followed the guidance of the Indiana Judicial Qualifications Commission and removed himself from any DWI cases that have come before him in Hamilton Superior 3. Senior Judge Judy Proffitt has been presiding over those cases, and he isn’t sure at this time how long that might continue.

Judge Hughes first joined the bench in 1988 and does not have any previous discipline history with the Indiana system. The judge self-reported his out-of-state arrest to the Indiana judicial disciplinary board and he has been cooperating with that process.

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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  • above the law
    Every citizen should know what this judge did. He feels he is above the law. He should have lost his position, 90 suspension of license, report to probation, and never be allowed to drink. What a jerk instead its reduced to reckless driving. making sure every hamilton county citizen is aware and he should be fired.
  • Do all legal officers who
    drive after more than one drink demonstrate a lack of respect for the law and public safety to recommend harsh sanctions? Point if fact: drunk driving is illegal and kills. Or are some crimes not worth noting?
  • no big deal
    A lot of people who get charged with DUI get off on a lesser charge. That is no no big deal. He got caught, he's plead guilty to a serious albeit lesser traffic offense, got a typical penalty, self-reported the naughty, now lets get past this and forget about it and let him get on with his job. In the annals of judicial misconduct this is an absolutely insignificant event.
    • differing standards of justice?
      This result is suprising only if one believes that all, elites and the great unwashed, live under the same justice system. If there is, instead, differing standards for differing stations, as Orwell predicted in Animal Farm, then this makes perfect sense.

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    1. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

    2. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

    3. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

    4. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

    5. And so the therapeutic state is weaonized. How soon until those with ideologies opposing the elite are disarmed in the name of mental health? If it can start anywhere it can start in the hoosiers' slavishly politically correct capital city.

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