Knox deputy gets one-day suspension after DUI charge reduced

By Jim Balloch

A Knox County Sheriff's Office deputy pleaded guilty Wednesday in Loudon County Sessions Court to a charge of reckless driving.

Heather Graves, 37, a training officer, will return to work Friday, Knox County sheriff’s spokeswoman Martha Dooley said today.

Graves was originally arrested Feb. 3 by the Loudon City Police Department and charged with driving under the influence. She admitted to drinking two beers and refused to take a breath test.

District Attorney General Russell Johnson said after he reviewed the police video tape of the arrest and field sobriety tests given to Graves, he concluded it would have been difficult to obtain a conviction.

“It’s not illegal to drink while driving, but it’s not very smart, especially for a law enforcement officer,” he said.

Graves, 37, a training officer, was originally charged with a first offense of driving under the influence. That charge was reduced at the recommendation of Loudon Police Chief James Webb, according to court officials. Webb said he decided to make the recommendation after speaking with the arresting officer and reviewing a videotape. "It seemed to me like it would be questionable that her ability was impaired or not," he said. "In this set of circumstances, nothing was done that has not been done many other times for a person who has made one mistake. Hundreds of times, a first-time DUI case has been reduced to reckless driving."

In a plea agreement, Graves pleaded guilty to reckless driving and was fined $500. A charge of violating the state's implied consent law, for refusing to take a breath-alcohol test, was dismissed on payment of additional court costs, Johnson said.

Graves was stopped shortly after 5 p.m. when police sighted her personal car going 60 mph in a 45 mph zone, according to police reports.