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DWI case against Merrimack County sheriff transferred to Nashua

  • Merrimack County Sheriff Scott Hilliard, (left) who is facing drunken driving charges, listens as his lawyer Jared Bedrick talks to him after a pre-trial conference in September. Laconia Daily Sun file

  • Scott Hilliard

Monitor staff
Published: 11/13/2019 4:24:47 PM

The drunken driving case against Merrimack County Sheriff Scott Hilliard will be heard in Nashua to ensure him a fair trial outside of the county where he serves as an elected official and oversees deputies in the regions’ courts.

To avoid a perceived conflict of interest, the misdemeanor charges were transferred last week from Franklin’s district court to Nashua’s district court, where a three-hour bench trial is scheduled for the afternoon of Dec. 19.

Hilliard, 58, of Northfield faces alternative counts of aggravated driving while intoxicated and DWI, in addition to an open container violation. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Tilton police arrested Hilliard on the evening of Aug. 9 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.

Prosecutor Jesse Renauld-Smith and defense attorney Jared Bedrick, who is representing Hilliard, jointly asked on Nov. 1 that the case be reassigned to Hillsborough County – south of Merrimack and Belknap counties where Hilliard works and was arrested, respectively. Administrative Circuit Court Judge David King issued an order last week in which he officially reassigned the case to Nashua for all future proceedings.

Hilliard had been scheduled to appear in Franklin’s district court on Nov. 4 to argue for evidence in the criminal case against him to be thrown out. In a motion to suppress, he maintains that police violated his rights under the New Hampshire Constitution and the U.S. Constitution.

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 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%.

Prosecutors have charged Hilliard with alternative counts of DWI: one alleges a blood alcohol concentration of 0.16%, the second alleges a concentration of 0.08% or more and a third charge simply alleges he was under the influence.

Upon receiving and reviewing the case in Nashua, District Court Judge James Leary ruled that a separate hearing on the defendant’s motion to suppress is not necessary.

“The court finds no reason to schedule a separate hearing on this motion since the facts upon which it is based will be considered as part of the trial,” Leary ordered.

Leary directed both parties to submit any pretrial motions to the court no later than 10 days before the Dec. 19 trial. Testimony is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m.

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