Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Franklin County Judge Reprimanded for Drunken Driving Conviction

The Ohio Supreme Court today publicly reprimanded a Franklin County judge whose blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit when she was arrested for drunken driving.

In a unanimous per curiam opinion, the Supreme Court reprimanded Judge Monica E. Hawkins, whose arrest came shortly after taking office as a newly elected member of the domestic relations and juvenile branch of the Franklin County Common Pleas Court. The Supreme Court found Judge Hawkins violated the rules requiring judges to comply with the law and act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the judiciary.

Judge Gets Lost Going Home
Judge Hawkins won election to the bench in 2018 and assumed the role in early 2019. On Jan. 31, 2019, a Pickerington police officer responded to a 911 call around 8:30 p.m. alerting them to a suspected intoxicated driver. When stopped by the officer, Judge Hawkins told her she had gotten lost while driving home.

The officer smelled alcohol emanating from the vehicle and asked Judge Hawkins if she had been drinking. She replied, “No.” When the officer stated she smelled alcohol, Judge Hawkins replied, “No, I’m a judge and I was trying to get home but I just got lost.”

The officer noted a large knot on the judge’s forehead, which appeared to be bleeding. She asked the judge about the head injury, and she denied having an injury. When asked for her identification and proof of insurance, Judge Hawkins produced a driver’s  license and a health-insurance card. The officer observed vomit on her coat and a large amount of vomit on the driver’s side floor of the vehicle.

A police sergeant arrived on the scene and approached the vehicle. Judge Hawkins handed her cell phone to the sergeant. Judge Hawkins’ bailiff was on the phone and was inquiring about the location of the incident so she could go to the scene.

Judge Hawkins was removed from her vehicle and failed several field sobriety tests. She was arrested for operating a vehicle while under the influence (OVI).

Judge Resists Intoxication Tests
At the police station, Judge Hawkins refused to provide a breath sample, and the arresting officer informed her she would seek a warrant to draw blood. The judge was transported to a hospital to obtain a blood sample, but refused to submit to a blood draw. She was informed by police that they obtained a warrant and she could not refuse. Eventually, four hospital security officers held her down until blood was drawn.

She was then charged with OVI and a marked-lanes violation. A report would later confirm her blood alcohol level was 0.199, more than twice the legal limit of .08 percent.

In Fairfield Municipal Court, Judge Hawkins pleaded guilty to OVI, and the remaining charges were dismissed . She was sentenced to 90 days in jail, with 87 days suspended, and the opportunity to complete a 72-hour driver-intervention program in lieu of the three days in jail. She also paid a $375 fine, had her driver’s license suspended for one year, and was placed on one year of probation.

Conviction Leads to Rule Violation
Based on the conviction , the Office of Disciplinary Counsel filed a complaint in August 2019 with the Board of Professional Conduct alleging Judge Hawkins violated two rules governing the conduct of Ohio judges.

The disciplinary counsel and Judge Hawkins suggested a public reprimand, and the board recommended that sanction to the Supreme Court.

“Operating a vehicle while intoxicated imperils public safety and public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary,” the Court’s opinion stated.

The opinion noted other jurists have been reprimanded for driving under the influence, and judges have been reprimanded when, like Judge Hawkins, they invoked their status as a judge during their OVI arrests.

Along with the reprimand, Judge Hawkins was ordered to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceedings.

2020-0468. Disciplinary Counsel v. Hawkins, Slip Opinion No. 2020-Ohio-4023.

Please note: Opinion summaries are prepared by the Office of Public Information for the general public and news media. Opinion summaries are not prepared for every opinion, but only for noteworthy cases. Opinion summaries are not to be considered as official headnotes or syllabi of court opinions. The full text of this and other court opinions are available online.

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