Miss Montana faces DUI charge

2009-03-25T23:00:00Z Miss Montana faces DUI chargeGazette News Services The Billings Gazette
March 25, 2009 11:00 pm  • 

BOZEMAN - Miss Montana is facing a DUI charge after a Bozeman police officer pulled her over earlier this year for driving with her headlights off.

Jennifer Hepner, 23, of Great Falls, was crowned Miss Montana 2008 in June and represented the state in the Miss America pageant in January - a few weeks after her Jan. 3 arrest. Hepner, a University of Montana graduate student, was pulled over about 2:30 a.m. and refused to submit to alcohol screening, breath or blood tests, according to charging documents. Her license was seized and suspended.

But Hepner, who pleaded not guilty at her initial court appearance, filed a petition in Gallatin County District Court on Feb. 4. She said the traffic stop and arrest were illegal and the arresting officer did not follow proper procedure.

Hepner's attorney, Brett Schandelson of Missoula, said in a statement that his client asked to speak with an attorney, but her requests were ignored and ultimately denied. The attorney said Miss Montana organizers allowed Hepner to participate in the Miss America pageant, but she and the organization agreed to suspend her Miss Montana duties Feb. 16.

Avice Hoff, executive director of IMAGE Productions, a nonprofit franchise of the Miss America Organization, said Wednesday that Hepner would retain her tiara until the next Miss Montana is crowned June 20.

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