Miss U of A Pleads “No Contest” to DWI Charge

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Miss University of Arkansas Sarah Gafvert pleaded “no contest” on Friday (June 21) in Fayetteville District Court to a misdemeanor charge of driving while intoxicated last fall, court records show.

Under a no-contest plea, a defendant is not admitting guilt but acknowledges there is sufficient evidence to be found guilty, attorneys say.

As a result, Gafvert paid a $350 fine and $320 in court fees, records show. She also has completed an alcohol awareness course at Ozark Guidance and participated in a Mothers Against Drunk Driving victim-input panel, according to court records. Her driver’s license has also been returned to her, records show.

The 21 year old was arrested Sept. 26 on suspicion of misdemeanor driving while intoxicated, having an expired driver’s license, having an expired vehicle license and failure to use a turn signal, records show. She pleaded not guilty to all charges against her.

Each charge except the DWI charge subsequently was dropped, her attorney, Bo Morton, said. This was Gafvert’s first DWI arrest, he said.

Gafvert was crowned Miss University of Arkansas on Oct. 21, less than a month after her Sept. 26 arrest.

Morton said at the time he wanted the case to go to trial, believing Gafvert to be innocent. She was a newly diagnosed diabetic whose blood sugar level was tested that morning at the jail and was determined to be abnormal, he said.

The lawyer said the blood sugar level could be at issue in how she performed in field sobriety and blood alcohol tests.

Pageant coordinators declared Gafvert eligible for competition following her DWI arrest, according to a statement by the organization.

The Miss Arkansas Scholarship Pageant released a statement at the time saying Gafvert made pageant officials aware of her arrest. The statement went on to say Gafvert was deemed eligible to compete.

She also is now eligible to compete in July in the Miss Arkansas pageant.

Gafvert’s attorney said her public service outweighs her arrest.

“Sarah is a serious student who gives freely of her time to humanitarian causes,” Morton said in a statement . “It is unfortunate that this single incident has attracted so much attention, and her many accomplishments so little.”

Morton listed several of Gafvert’s achievements, including raising money for the Children’s Miracle Network, her status as valedictorian in high school in Kansas and her 4.0 grade-point-average at the university last semester.

Fayetteville police stopped Gafvert at 2:12 a.m. on Sept. 26 at East Rockwood Trail and North Sequoya Drive, according to a Fayetteville District Court preliminary report.

Several minutes earlier she had been driving north on North Mission Boulevard but failed to signal a turn onto East Rockwood Trail, the report states.

The arresting officer said Gafvert had bloodshot and watery eyes and slurred speech. Her car gave off an odor of “intoxicants,” the report states.

Gafvert performed “a battery” of field sobriety tests, indicating she was drunk, according to the report.

Gafvert had an expired driver’s license, and the Mercedes had an expired tag, the report states.

Gafvert then was booked into the Washington County Detention Center, and at 3:37 a.m. registered .13 on a blood-alcohol test, the report states. The legal alcohol limit while driving in Arkansas is .08 percent.

Gafvert was released from the detention center the same day on $1,200 bond, according to booking records from the center.