Sheriff sentenced: Hutchinson avoids jail time for DWI, unclear if he'll pay for crashed vehicle

Hennepin County Sheriff David Hutchinson will avoid jail time as part of a sentence ordered Monday in a drunken-driving case that has moved quietly since the sheriff's Dec. 8 arrest.

Douglas County Judge Timothy Churchwell said Hutchinson must pay $610 in fines and fees, consent to random testing, and have no driver's license violations. The sentence happened without a hearing or any public notice of one.

Hutchinson pleaded guilty last week to one misdemeanor count of driving while intoxicated in the fourth degree. The judge dismissed three other charges, including a charge of carrying a pistol while under the influence, as part of the plea. In a statement last Thursday, Douglas County Attorney Chad Larson described the plea agreement as similar to any other DWI case.

Yet several elements of the case have been shielded from public view. The Minnesota State Patrol waited 10 hours to report the crash publicly, even though troopers were among the first responding officers. Hutchinson's mugshot was never made public -- if there even was one, as the sheriff was hospitalized after the crash for several days.

Hutchinson crashed his county-owned 2021 Ford Explorer at 2:30 a.m. Dec. 8 on Interstate 94 five miles east of Alexandria after the Minnesota Sheriffs' Association annual conference. 

Hutchinson has not spoken publicly about the crash other than through statements issued by a spokesman. Last week, the sheriff said he had entered an outpatient treatment program "to address my issues with alcohol" and had returned to work.

Hennepin County officials have not said whether the sheriff will be forced to pay for the crashed Explorer. Taxpayers paid $54,000 for the vehicle in December 2020, county purchasing records indicate. The total cost increased after the county had police equipment installed. 

A spokesperson for the county said there was "nothing new" to report on potential repayment. A spokesman for Hutchinson said the sheriff has had "no conversations" about it.

Evidence in the criminal proceeding will remain private for 30 days after Monday's sentence, the State Patrol said Monday. In a court document filed last week, prosecutors said their evidence included 14 body camera and in-squad videos, and 138 photos.

Hutchinson's plea to fourth-degree drunken driving could trigger a licensure review from Minnesota's Peace Officer Standards and Training Board. Since 2019, the board has suspended 11 officers' licenses for the same crime, the agency's executive director told FOX 9.

Here again, Hutchinson's case will proceed quietly. All data -- including the mere existence of an investigation -- is private unless the POST Board takes a final vote to impose discipline.