High speed chase suspect has long driving recordEthan man’s license was suspended for 25 years; judge recently ordered reinstatement.
By: Chris Mueller, The Daily Republic
The man arrested for leading police on a recent high-speed pursuit once had his driver’s license revoked for 25 years before a judge ordered it reinstated it last month.
Justin Jonathon Hofer, 30, of Ethan, was arrested Feb. 8 on charges of aggravated eluding, reckless driving and driving with a revoked driver’s license after allegedly fleeing from two Mitchell police officers on Feb. 5.
The officers called off the chase for safety reasons, with speeds exceeding 100 mph and Hofer allegedly nearly striking several vehicles, driving through a ditch to pass a vehicle and ignoring traffic signals.
Hofer reported his vehicle stolen Feb. 6, the day after the chase occurred, and told the Davison County Sheriff’s Office he was not driving it the night of the pursuit. For that, he was charged with false reporting to a law enforcement officer. Authorities found Hofer’s vehicle parked in Lake Andes that same day.
According to the police report, Hofer admitted on Feb. 8 he was the driver of the vehicle in the chase, and said he ran because of his past record. The report also states Hofer told police he “consumed a couple of alcoholic beverages before driving his vehicle” on Feb. 5.
Hofer’s criminal history is more than a decade long and includes numerous alcohol- and driving-related convictions.
Hofer was arrested for his fourth drunken-driving charge in March 2007. He pleaded guilty and as a part of his sentence, his driver’s license was revoked for 25 years with the stipulation that he could request his driving privileges back two years after being released from custody, provided he could prove in court he had maintained sobriety for one year.
For that fourth DUI, Hofer also was sentenced to four years in prison, with all four years suspended contingent on the terms of his probation, and was ordered to serve 90 days in jail.
On June 13, 2011, an order to reinstate Hofer’s driver’s license, issued by Judge Sean M. O’Brien, was filed with the Davison County Clerk of Courts. The order granted Hofer’s request to have his license reinstated on Jan. 1 — less than five years after O’Brien had revoked it for 25 years.
Despite Judge O’Brien’s order reinstating Hofer’s driving privileges on Jan. 1, Hofer was still charged with driving with a revoked license for his involvement in the Feb. 5 police chase. The explanation for that is complex.
Cindy Gerber, program director for the state Driver Licensing Program, said her department received the order reinstating Hofer’s license and took the appropriate action, but the status of his license is still revoked due to an incident in 2009 in which he was caught driving with a revoked license, which resulted in an additional one-year revocation.
The state Department of Public Safety is required by law to refrain from issuing a new license to anyone caught driving with a revoked license until one year from the date the person would otherwise have been entitled to apply for a new license.
That means Hofer would be eligible to reapply for his license one year after the judge’s order reinstating it, which will be Jan. 1, 2013, said state Public Safety spokesperson Terry Woster.
Of course, Hofer’s latest legal trouble could complicate the matter even further.
The 2007 DUI conviction referenced Hofer as a bar operator. He was allowed to continue operating his bar as part of the sentence, but was not allowed to frequent it while not working.
Hofer’s criminal history dates to his teenage years.
At 19 years old, Hofer was arrested for his first drunken driving offense. He pleaded guilty to the charge in January 2001 and was fined $300 and sentenced to 90 days in jail, with 88 days suspended. A charge of possession of a loaded firearm while intoxicated was dismissed.
Hofer was arrested for his second DUI in December 2002, to which he also pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail, fined $389 and received 180 days of probation, and his driver’s license was revoked for one year.
In 2004, Hofer was arrested and pleaded guilty to his third driving under the influence charge.
He was also charged with attempting to elude police in that incident, but the charge was later dismissed.
For his third DUI offense, Hofer’s driver’s license was revoked for five years, he was fined $750 and was sentenced to two years in prison. Hofer was ordered to serve 45 days in jail, but his prison sentence was suspended and he was put on probation.
Since 2003, Hofer has been charged with driving with a revoked license four times, including his arrest Feb. 8.
For his felony charge of aggravated eluding in the Feb. 5 chase, Hofer could receive two years in prison and a $4,000 fine. Hofer has also been charged with three misdemeanors, each punishable by one year in jail and a $2,000 fine.
The incident was investigated by the Mitchell Police Division and the Davison County Sheriff’s Office.
The Daily Republic was not able to reach Hofer for this story.