NEW ALBANY — A New Albany man has been the first to be charged with disobeying Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb’s stay-at-home order after police say he drove while intoxicated and hit three parked cars.
James Houchens, 23, was arrested Tuesday after police responded to a four-car crash on Spring Street in New Albany; a witness called it in. On arrival, officers say they found the defendant behind the wheel of a Jeep Grand Cherokee, behind three unoccupied cars that had been damaged, according to court records.
Officers observed “slow and slurred speech,” and reported Houchens’ eyes were “glassy and bloodshot.” He was given field sobriety tests, which he failed, and a preliminary breath test, which registered his Blood Alcohol Content at .17.
He told police he had been hanging out at a friend’s house where he had a couple of drinks, and was returning to his residence on Spring Avenue.
He was arrested and taken to the Floyd County jail where court records show he refused a certified chemical blood test; he was then transported to Baptist Health Floyd for medical clearance and returned to jail.
Houchens is charged with two class A misdemeanors for operating while intoxicated and a class B misdemeanor for disobeying a declaration of disaster emergency. The third charge is new on the books. It was put into place after Holcomb’s order which mandates that all Hoosiers stay home unless they are performing essential activities, such as getting groceries or caring for someone who is ill.
The order is aimed at mitigating the spread of COVID-19; as of 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, more than 3,000 Indiana residents had tested positive for the disease, with 78 deaths.
The order went into effect March 24 and will last through April 7, unless deemed it needs to be longer.
“After reviewing this case, I feel that it is appropriate to include a charge for violating the governor’s stay-at-home order,” Floyd County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Chris Lane said in a news release. “It’s the first time our office has utilized this charge, but we will continue to do so when necessary in order to keep the community safe.”
Clark County Prosecutor Jeremy Mull said that as of Thursday morning, he had not filed this charge against anyone in Clark County.
Houchens has an initial hearing set for June 5 in Floyd County Superior Court No. 2.