Repeat Drunk Driver Denied Prison Credit For Days In Treatment

The case started seven years ago when a Rock Springs man drove on the wrong side of the road and almost hit a Sweetwater County Sheriff’s deputy head-on. It was his fourth DUI offense within 10 years, making it a felony.

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Clair McFarland

August 23, 20234 min read

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A Rock Springs man who went into treatment after pleading guilty to a felony drunk-driving charge does not get to count treatment time against the prison sentence a judge handed down after he failed probation, the Wyoming Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.  

John Raiford Hiltner, 40, appealed his prison sentence to the high court in April, arguing that he should have 76 days credit for time spent in treatment in Sheridan.  

The court disagreed, ruling Wednesday that defendants do not get credit for time spent in custody unless prosecutors can apply escape charges to the defendant for leaving that custody.  

The possibility of an escape charge essentially defines that confinement as creditable against the overall sentence, the court's order indicates.  

Though sentenced to between four and six years in prison starting in January 2021, Hiltner is now in a halfway house in Gillette, on work release, he told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday.

'I Knew The Consequences'

"I was still hoping that the appeal would go in my favor," said Hiltner. "It may only be 76 days, but that's 76 days of my life I wouldn't be under the scrutiny of the (Department of Corrections)."

Hiltner pointed to his appeal's reference of Wyoming criminal procedure statutes, specifically 7-13-403, which deems parolees "in custody" while on parole. The parole and probation laws are in the same section in Wyoming statute, Hiltner noted, also directing the court to statutes promising credit for time spent "in custody," and statutes defining probation as a sentence in which the court retains authority over the sentence.

Hiltner told Cowboy State Daily he challenged his sentence because he found the legal definitions of the term "custody" inconsistent with its application.

"I knew the consequences for my actions and I regret my choices," Hiltner added. "I just don't feel the consequences fit the crime."

Probation First 

The court did not sentence Hiltner to prison at first. It attempted probation twice.  

The case started Nov. 10, 2016, when Hiltner drove on the wrong side of the road and almost hit a Sweetwater County Sheriff’s deputy head-on, according to court documents. It was his fourth DUI offense within 10 years, making it a felony.  

The district court imposed a five-year probation sentence, with the threat of a six- to seven-year prison sentence if Hiltner failed probation.  

Three years later, the court revoked Hiltner’s probation when his probation agent learned he was drinking alcohol. He also left the program twice without permission and gave breath-alcohol tests measuring 0.22% breath-alcohol content, says the state’s argument in the appeal.   

The court reinstated Hiltner’s probation for three years, adding a condition that he complete residential treatment.  

Eight months later the court revoked his probation again when he refused to submit to urinalysis, and the court imposed a four- to six-year prison sentence.  

No Credit For Treatment, Or Probation 

Nearly a year after that, Hiltner asked for a sentence reduction based on good behavior, but the court denied it, according to court documents. Seven months later he asked for a sentence reduction for the 76 days he spent in substance abuse treatment. The Sweetwater County District Court denied that request.  

The Wyoming Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the district court’s decision.  

Hiltner also raised the question of whether he could get credit for time spent generally on probation, but the Wyoming Supreme Court wouldn’t address that because the issue hadn’t surfaced in the district court and would have been a new issue raised on appeal.  

Hiltner said Wednesday that he is doing better and has a handle on the impaired driving issue.

Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter