By Derrick Knutson—
A Rush City resident who is all-too-familiar with the law is going to be serving 81 days in the county jail after pleading guilty to a DWI in Pine County last month.
Joseph Paul Hegg, 37, appeared in Chisago County District Court April 3 in relation to probation violations on three prior convictions: Gross Misdemeanor DWI from January 2009, a second Gross Misdemeanor DWI from May 2009 and Felony Possession of a controlled Substance from December 2009.
He was in violation of his probation on those convictions because of the aforementioned Pine County DWI, which occurred Nov. 25 of last year.
According to a criminal complaint from the Pine County Attorney’s Office, a Pine County Sheriff’s sergeant responded to a call about a disturbance inside a car parked between the Time Out Bar and the Rock Creek Chalet.
Hegg reportedly got into an altercation with a female in the vehicle.
When the sergeant confronted Hegg, he appeared to be intoxicated and bleeding from the head.
When asked if he had anything to drink that night, Hegg told the sergeant that he had consumed alcohol, according to the complaint.
When asked about the head wound, Hegg stated, “Why does it matter?”
A female then appeared from around the corner of a nearby apartment building and reportedly said to the sergeant, “I hit him because he wouldn’t give me the keys to the apartment.”
The sergeant wrote in his report that Hegg’s vehicle was not running, but the keys were still in the ignition and the automatic transmission lever was still in the drive position.
The sergeant noted the vehicle’s hood was warm to the touch.
After performing an array of field-sobriety tests poorly, Hegg registered a .22 on a preliminary breath test.
He was arrested and transported to the Pine County Detention Center, where he registered the same blood-alcohol level on an Intoxilyzer.
Hegg pleaded guilty to the DWI charge in Pine County and will be sentenced April 27.
No prison time
Due to sentencing guidelines and a decision by a judge, Hegg will not be serving time in a state prison, even with his past criminal history.
Chisago County Attorney Janet Reiter said Hegg has a total of six convictions for driving while intoxicated, starting with his first offense at age 19.
Before being arrested in Pine County, Hegg’s driver’s license had been cancelled because the courts had deemed him “inimical to public safety.”
In DWI cases, Reiter said the court system is more likely to take a punishment and rehabilitation approach, rather than clogging up prisons with those convicted of drinking and driving.
“It’s a science,” she said of sentencing. “Our goals are to provide someone like Mr. Hegg the tools to obtain sobriety.”
District Manager for the Chisago County Department of Corrections Randy Tenge said four DWI violations in 10 years can equate to felony charges, but that’s not a set-in-stone punishment.
He noted sentencing guidelines have to be updated continually following decisions by the State Legislature.
He agreed with Reiter’s comment about how the courts approach sentencing DWI offenders.
“The preference is to keep people out of the prisons,” he said. “They’re moms, dads, brothers and sisters, too. If we have alternatives to incarceration, we’re looking for those options.”
He noted court-ordered alcohol and drug rehabilitation is often prescribed, and offenders are made aware they will face jail time and/or fines if they don’t complete the rehabilitation.
Also considered in Hegg’s sentencing was time he had already served in jail for his past offenses.
“(The Department of Corrections) is able to track where’s he’s spent time (in jail or prison) and that time is aggregated or combined to give him that level of custody credit,” Reiter said.
In addition to the 81 days Hegg must serve in the Chisago County Jail, he was ordered to complete an updated chemical use assessment while in jail; have no use/possession alcohol or controlled substances; and submit to random testing. Upon release from jail he will be placed on Electronic Home Alcohol Monitoring for 90 days and thereafter be placed on 120 days of EHAM every year while on probation. He is prohibited from driving a motor vehicle and barred from entering any establishment that serves alcohol.