Questions raised over whether Saline Co. Sheriff Bruce Pennington should be charged with DUI

    8:34 PM, Jul 12, 2013   |    comments
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    Video: Should Saline Co. Sheriff should be charged with DUI?

    Sheriff Bruce Pennington at his press conference Monday. (Photo: Steve Payne, THV 11)

    SALINE COUNTY, Ark. (KTHV) - A day after an officer's account was released of what happened when the Saline County Sheriff was arrested, questions over whether Sheriff Bruce Pennington should have been issued a DUI have been raised.

    Although Sheriff Pennington is still in the hot seat after his July 6 intoxication arrest and faces charges, more could come. Yes, he is a sheriff, but prosecutors said that won't mean anything should he stand before a jury.

    STORY: Saline County Sheriff Arrested for Public Intoxication

    STORY: Saline Co.Sheriff explains what happened the night of his arrest

    "I'm guilty," Pennington admitted a couple days after his arrest.

    Pennington told reporters at a press conference that he texted a friend to come pick him up because he wasn't planning on driving, but an officer's report tells something different.

    "Mr. Pennington advised that he was not drunk and that he would be driving his car home, and there was nothing I could do about it," the officer recalled.

    STORY: New Details: Saline County Sheriff Bruce Pennington fought officers, insisted on driving while drunk

    PDF: Entire statements from responding officers

    That day, officers cited Pennington with Public Intoxication and Refusal to Submit to Arrest. Pennington's car keys were allegedly in his center console, so the officer did not charge him with DUI.

    "It's not just operating a vehicle. It's whether a person is in control of a vehicle," said Felicia Epps, a law professor at UALR. She said it's up to the officer on the scene to decide what constitutes whether a person is in control of the vehicle. "Keep in mind we have to keep separate what an officer does in terms of arresting someone, what the officer's suspicions may be, and what later happens in court."

    Prosecutor Cody Hiland is the person who will determine whether any charges will be added or dropped.

    "We're not going to treat this case any differently--no better, no worse. Obviously it's high profile," he said. "This may not be your typical case. After all, we're talking about the sheriff of the county here. Some may wonder how that will play into the case."

    Hiland said if the sheriff is convicted of a felony, he will obviously not be allowed to serve, but if he's convicted of a misdemeanor, it has to be a misdemeanor that involves deceit and dishonesty before he will be removed from office.

    The case heads to trial August 5, and Prosecutor Hiland said Sheriff Pennington plans to plead guilty.

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