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Merrimack County sheriff argues drunken driving arrest was “unreasonable”

  • Scott Hilliard

Monitor staff
Published: 10/17/2019 2:49:44 PM
Modified: 10/17/2019 2:49:34 PM

Merrimack County Sheriff Scott Hilliard is arguing that Tilton police erred by taking him into custody without a warrant and that, as a result, all evidence obtained after his arrest should be inadmissible at trial.

Hilliard, who faces alternative drunken driving charges, says his arrest by police on the night of Aug. 9 violated his rights under the New Hampshire Constitution and the U.S. Constitution, according to a motion filed last week by his attorney Jared Bedrick of Douglas, Leonard & Garvey, P.C. 

Police arrested Hilliard after a caller reported that a vehicle was driving erratically on Laconia Road, also known as Route 3. Hilliard, who is serving his seventh term as sheriff, was not on duty at the time of his arrest and has remained on the job.

Bedrick wrote that police did not witness Hilliard driving erratically, nor did Hilliard cause an accident prior to arriving at the 99 Restaurant, where he was picking up a takeout order. Further, he contends Hilliard had a safe ride home and therefore was not an imminent danger to himself or the public.

“During the investigation, but before his arrest, Mr. Hilliard's wife learned of the investigation and informed the officers that she would be coming to the scene,” Bedrick explained. “Indeed, she did arrive at the scene before the arrest and had the capability of taking Mr. Hilliard home.”

While the law does allow police to make an arrest without a warrant under certain conditions, Hilliard, 58, of Northfield maintains those conditions were not present in his case, and that his arrest was “unreasonable.”

Once in custody, Hilliard was transported to a local hospital where a blood sample was drawn. According to an arrest report, that test revealed his blood alcohol content was 0.246, three times the legal limit of 0.08.

Should a judge grant Hilliard’s motion, that evidence would not go before a jury.

Prior to the blood draw, officers had conducted a field sobriety test and a portable breath test, both of which he failed. The sergeant who conducted the investigation observed that Hilliard’s “eyes were glassy, bloodshot and his face was (flushed) red.”

Hilliard faces alternative counts of aggravated driving while intoxicated and DWI, in addition to an open container violation. The aggravated DWI charge alleges that Hilliard was driving a white 2013 Cadillac XTS with a blood concentration of 0.16% or more. Alternatively, one of the DWI complaints accuses Hilliard of having an alcohol concentration of 0.08% or more, and a third charge alleges he was under the influence of alcohol or a drug that impaired his ability to drive.

He has pleaded not guilty and remains free on bail conditions pending trial.

In a letter to the community last month, Hilliard wrote: “In my 38 years working to help others with alcohol issues, I never thought I would end up in this position, and I fully accept responsibility for creating this situation.”

“This incident has helped me see the extent of a problem I tried to ignore for too long,” he continued.

A hearing on the motion to suppress is scheduled for Nov. 4 in Franklin’s district court.

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