A former Madison police officer was sentenced Friday to 30 days in jail for driving drunk off-duty last year while her 5-year-old son was a passenger in her vehicle.
“I’m very sorry,” said Kelly Hoeft, 42. “I screwed up. I made a mistake.”
Dane County Circuit Judge Jill Karofsky also ordered Hoeft to pay a $500 fine plus court costs and revoked her driver’s license for 14 months.
Hoeft pleaded guilty in October to first-offense drunken driving with a child in her car. Normally, first-offense drunken driving is not a crime in Wisconsin but is treated like a traffic ticket. Having a child in the vehicle, however, made the matter a crime under state law.
On June 1, 2017, according to a criminal complaint, a caller reported seeing a dark blue minivan go through the intersection of Raymond Road and McKenna Boulevard, taking out a couple of signs in the median.
Hoeft, who was driving the van, was stopped by an officer on Dolphin Drive, who saw the child in her vehicle. Hoeft declined to perform field sobriety tests, but a preliminary breath test found her blood alcohol concentration to be 0.27 percent, more than three times the limit for drivers in Wisconsin, the complaint states.
Hoeft returned to duty with an occupational driver’s license but resigned from the Madison Police Department in May 2018. She later moved to Rice Lake.
Hoeft got a job there as a school community outreach worker for at-risk students for the Barron County Restorative Justice Program. Speaking in court, the program’s operational leader, Monika Audette, praised Hoeft as “knowledgeable, competent and compassionate.” She asked Karofsky not to send Hoeft to jail.
“She’s paid the price over and over again,” Audette said. “It’s time to let her go forward.”
Madison police officer and union president Dan Frei, who said Hoeft has become a close friend, said the impact of her actions “weighed heavily on her,” and said she has “paid the price willingly and accepted responsibility.”
Assistant District Attorney James Woywod asked for a 90-day jail sentence and a 14-month driver’s license revocation, along with a $500 fine. He said that’s at the low end of sentencing guidelines for drunken driving in the state judicial district to which Dane County belongs.
Hoeft’s lawyer, Sarvan Singh, asked for a five-day jail sentence. He argued that the guidelines are just that — guidelines — and are not hard and fast rules. Hoeft, he said, went through alcohol treatment and has a relapse prevention plan in place, so that she will not be a danger to anyone.
“You’ll never see her back here,” Singh said.
Karofsky said that while she understands why the state asked for a 90-day jail sentence, the fact that Hoeft took responsibility for her actions and received treatment persuaded her that a 30-day jail sentence was enough.