By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
A Big Island police officer arrested and charged in August with drunken driving and refusing a sobriety test has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Attorney Stanton Oshiro entered the plea on Tuesday in Hilo District Court on behalf of 46-year-old Richard “Dickie” Carter Jr., a 23-year veteran of the department and a patrol officer assigned to the Ka‘u district. Carter was not present at the hearing. A pre-trial conference was set for Nov. 7 at 1:30 p.m. No trial date has yet been set.
“He’s on leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation,” Assistant Chief Marshall Kanehailua said Tuesday.
Kanehailua said he couldn’t to comment further until the investigation is complete and if Carter decides to appeal the decision, until that process is complete.
Carter was arrested at 1:09 a.m. on Aug. 17 near the intersection of Kinoole and Haihai streets in Hilo on suspicion of driving under the influence of an intoxicant and refusing to submit to a breath, blood or urine test, according to police records.
Carter was charged about an hour later. He was later released after posting $1,000 bail, $500 for each charge.
Carter’s driver’s license was revoked after he refused the test and an administrative hearing upheld the revocation on Aug. 24. The DUI charge was dropped by prosecutors at some point, but was reinstated on Tuesday, according to Deputy Prosecutor Kevin Hashizaki.
“Initially, when the case was sent to us by police, there were some reports that we hadn’t received. So based on the initial screening of what we had, it was determined not to charge the DUI,” Hashizaki said. “After that, subsequently, more reports were received based on the police investigation, and we made a reassessment of the case and then brought the DUI charge.”
Kanehailua said he couldn’t comment on whether Carter could continue as a police officer after a license revocation, but a recruitment notice for police officers at the county’s Human Resources department states that officers must “have a valid driver’s license.”
According to Tribune-Herald archives, Carter was arrested and charged on Oct. 26, 2009, in Hilo on suspicion of driving under the influence of an intoxicant.
Kanehailua said that Carter refused to undergo field sobriety or blood alcohol content tests during that arrest, as well. Court records indicate that the 2009 DUI charge was not prosecuted.
Carter filed a complaint with the county Police Commission against the arresting officer in the 2009 case, Capt. Samuel Jelsma, which the commission declined to act upon.
According to the March 12, 2010, meeting minutes, Jelsma told the panel that he witnessed Carter “weaving in his lane, driving real slowly” on Hualalai Street in Hilo and after Carter “failed to execute a turn signal right” by Burger King, Jelsma stopped Carter’s truck by Ace Hardware. Jelsma said that he smelled alcohol and that Carter had “glassy, bloodshot eyes.” He told the commission that Carter refused to turn off the car and get out. He said that Carter cracked the window about five inches. Jelsma said that after giving Carter a chance to get out of the truck voluntarily, Jelsma reached inside and unlocked the driver’s side door. He said that when he did that, Carter attempted to re-lock the door.
Jelsma told the commission that Prosecutor Charlene Iboshi sent him an email, which was submitted to the commission, stating that the traffic stop was good, but prosecutors didn’t pursue the case because Carter refused the field test and breath test.
Iboshi said Tuesday evening she had sent an email regarding a deputy’s decision not to prosecute the case, based on the deputy’s belief that a judge would not convict under the circumstances.
“The issue of when people refuse tests is becoming more litigated,” she said. “… At one point judges were not really supporting convictions, but I think since then, we’ve gotten a clarification on these cases so we can go forward and let the judges decide. … We’ve decided to go forward on more on those cases, regardless of whether (the defendant) is a police officer or not.
“… DUI is a very serious matter. When you get behind the wheel of a car it’s like a loaded gun, and we should treat it very seriously. The standard is are we treating him the same (as a private citizen arrested for DUI)? Hopefully, we are treating him the same.”
Email John Burnett at email@example.com.