Embattled Hennepin County Sheriff David Hutchinson is taking an immediate leave of absence from his elected position for what he called health-related reasons.
No specific reason or length of time was given in an e-mail that went out to Sheriff's Office staff on Thursday afternoon. Hutchinson declined to comment.
While on leave, Chief Deputy Tracey Martin will be in charge of operations for the Sheriff's Office, which serves about 1.2 million residents.
In December, Hutchinson, 41, crashed his county-owned sport-utility vehicle on Interstate 94 outside Alexandria, Minn., after a state sheriffs' convention. Authorities determined he had a blood-alcohol level of 0.13%, nearly twice the legal limit for driving in Minnesota. He also had his service gun and a bottle of alcohol in the truck.
He said at the time that he had a few drinks at a hospitality suite in the evening and then went back to his room, where he planned to spend the night. But he said he couldn't sleep, packed his bag and decided to head back to the Twin Cities.
He initially told state troopers that he wasn't the driver. He later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor drunken driving offense, and two other charges were dismissed. He still faces a misdemeanor weapons charge.
As part of his plea agreement, Hutchinson was placed on probation for two years. He isn't allowed to drink alcohol during that time and must submit to random testing. The sheriff agreed to repay the county nearly $48,000 for damage to the taxpayer-owned SUV.
Hutchinson said last December that he went to an outpatient mental health and chemical dependency treatment program after the crash. He vowed to never touch alcohol again and pledged to regain the trust of the community.
"Everything is always 20/20," Hutchinson said in December. "I've been a social drinker for a while and have probably been drinking a little more than I should lately. I know I needed help. Alcohol is not for me."
Hutchinson suffered several broken ribs and vertebrae, and a concussion, after driving on a snow-covered shoulder and crashing into a ditch. He was driving over 120 miles per hour, according to law enforcement. Under Minnesota law, drivers caught at more than 100 mph are subject to a six-month license revocation.
As more details about the crash emerged and challenged Hutchinson's earlier accounts, community groups, Hennepin County commissioners, Gov. Tim Walz and other politicians across the state called for his resignation. Hutchinson rebuffed calls to quit, but said he would not seek a second term. The position pays $185,775 a year.
"Getting sober has helped me regain my drive to serve the people of Hennepin County to the best of my ability," he said at the time. "I have a lot more to give."
The state's Police Officer Standards and Training Board is considering whether to suspend or revoke Hutchinson's peace officer's license. It's rare for a peace officer to have their license revoked for a misdemeanor conviction, but the board could take other factors in consideration. His next hearing is in September, one month before the election.
Under state law, Hutch will continue to get paid and receive county benefits while on leave.
Hutchinson was elected to a four-year term in 2018, narrowly defeating longtime incumbent Rich Stanek.
Staff writer Rochelle Olson contributed to this report.