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ARKANSAS: Methodist pastor arrested for drinking and driving - DWI

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United Methodist Church, Hardy ArkansasA Hardy United Methodist church minister was arrested Jan. 10 after a Highland police officer observed him swerving and driving on the shoulder of the road.

Brien Nix Hall, 42, of Ash Flat was stopped by Highland Police Officer Bryan Buchanan for weaving, crossing the center line and driving on the shoulder. After approaching the vehicle, the officer detected a strong smell of intoxicants coming from the driver as he spoke.

The police report indicates Hall's speech was slurred and his eyes were watery and bloodshot. Buchanan stated Hall was unable to read dates on his insurance cards after handing the officer the same expired cards twice before finally locating the valid one. He also noted Hall could not locate his registration, that was in his hand, at the time it was requested.

After being asked if he had been drinking, Hall told the officer he had not, telling him he had been at a church meeting, where he was the preacher at the Hardy United Methodist Church. Hall said his impaired driving was because he was talking on his cell phone.

Hall then blew into a portable breathalyzer which registered .149, nearly twice the legal limit, indicating he failed the test. Buchanan informed Hall he had failed.

Hall then changed his story, telling the officer he had drank before four that afternoon. Buchanan then asked Hall if that meant he had been drinking and driving before the meeting. Hall again changed his story, and told him he drank after the meeting, which began at 6 p.m.

After determining Hall was not being truthful and by seeing beer cans in the vehicle, Hall was asked to get out of the vehicle for a Field Sobriety Test.

The police report stated that Hall grabbed the officer's arm as he walked to the front of the police vehicle and later disobeyed orders to remove his hands from his pockets.

When Buchanan began the test, Hall told him he "thinks he has M.S. (Multiple Sclerosis)." He also told the officer he was blind in his right eye. Buchanan took Hall's word and determined it was not possible to administer an accurate Field Sobriety Test.

The officer searched Hall prior to taking him to jail to administer another breathalyzer test. Established procedure is to take a suspect to jail to administer a second test from a machine that is better calibrated and more accurate if a driver fails a portable breathalyzer after a traffic stop.

When asked if he had any weapons on his person, Hall said no, but Buchanan discovered two knives. The officer also found empty alcohol containers in the back of the truck, in the passenger seat, and a partially empty can that was cold to the touch in the back floorboard. There was also a high powered rifle, two spot lights and ammunition in the back seat, along with ammunition in Hall's pockets. The items in the truck were photographed as evidence.

Because the offense was alcohol related and firearms were present, Game and Fish was contacted. Hall denied having been hunting and requested legal counsel.

After being read his rights at the Sharp County Detention Facility, Hall signed required paperwork but refused the breathalyzer test. Hall was charged with DWI, Refusal to Submit, Careless Driving and Driving Left of Center.

The standard procedure for persons arrested for DWI is that they remain in jail for 6-8 hours before being released.

Buchanan said he was stopped in the jail by Tom Garner, Hall's brother-in- law who is a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney. Garner was on the phone with Hall's attorney, Larry Kissee.

Garner requested Hall be released to him on his own recognizance. Kissee told the officer Hall's medical issues could be affected if he stayed in the detention center. Garner explained Hall's medical condition causes him to appear intoxicated, making it difficult for him to walk and causing slurred speech.

Hall was given a March 1, court date to appear before the judge for the offense.