CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A Mecklenburg judge on Monday dismissed a driving while impaired charge against Tim Newman, ruling that the former chief executive of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority had been kept in jail too long after his arrest.
Mecklenburg District Judge Kimberly Best dismissed the DWI charge because Newman spent more than three hours waiting to be released from jail on May 23.
A magistrate had given Newman an unsecured bond at 1:15 a.m. But Newman didn’t get out of jail until 4:34 a.m.
“He should have been out within an hour,” the judge said in throwing out the DWI charge. “Instead, it took three hours.”
Because alcohol levels in a body drop over time, defendants in DWI cases are supposed to be released from jail as soon as possible after their arrests so they can gather evidence for their defense. That could include having friends and family observe their condition or obtaining a blood test as independent proof of sobriety.
Prosecutors can appeal the judge’s dismissal of the DWI charge against Newman.
Newman was charged with DWI and hit-and-run on May 22, after an accident at Interstate 77 and LaSalle Street shortly after 10 p.m., N.C. Highway Patrol trooper John Burgin said.
The hit-and-run charge against Newman is still pending.
Newman, 48, declined to comment as he left the courtroom.
“Mr. Newman is really happy about it,” defense attorney Brad Smith told reporters after the DWI charge had been thrown out. “It was a clear violation of my client’s rights.
“We don’t know why it took so long to release Mr. Newman from the jail.”
During Monday’s hearing, Newman testified about his long wait to get out of jail.
“I just sat and waited,” he said.
“Did you want to hang out in the jail?” Smith asked.
“No, sir,” Newman replied.
Smith urged the judge to dismiss the DWI charge against Newman.
“It’s shocking. It’s unconscionable the amount of time people sit in jail,” the defense lawyer said.
Smith told reporters that N.C. Supreme Court rulings don’t specify how long is too long for DWI defendants to stay in jail, but he said those charged with DWI should be released as soon as possible.
On the night of May 22, Trooper Burgin said, there was stop-and-go traffic on I-77 because of another accident. Newman hit a vehicle, the trooper said. The driver of the other car stepped out of the vehicle, but Newman said everything was OK and drove off, according to Burgin. The other driver called the police.
Refused alcohol test in jail
Burgin said the arresting officer believed Newman had been drinking. A roadside breath test produced a positive reading for alcohol. A trooper testified at Monday’s hearing that Newman, while at the jail, refused to blow into an Intoxilyzer – the instrument that registers alcohol levels.
Newman had been the CEO of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority since 2004 but was forced out last year after the Charlotte City Council and Mayor Anthony Foxx questioned his management.
After a new chief executive was hired in December, Newman stayed on as a senior executive.
The CRVA said Newman resigned in February.