STEVEN W. HEAPER, d/o/b 6-03-1975, of Branson, pleaded guilty to the class B felony of driving while intoxicated on Wednesday, October 28, 2015, in the Circuit Court of Taney County. Heaper appeared before Circuit Court Judge Laura Johnson via a closed-caption video feed from the Missouri Department of Corrections, where he is already serving another sentence. Pursuant to a plea agreement with the Taney County Prosecutor’s Office, Heaper was sentenced to eight (8) years in prison, in exchange for his guilty plea.
Heaper was charged because on May 28, 2013, at just after 2:00 a.m., Trooper Evan Tyrrell with the Missouri State Highway Patrol initiated a traffic stop after he observed a white passenger car traveling east on Missouri Highway 76, traveling partially in the center turn lane and partially in the eastbound lane. When the Trooper contacted Heaper, he noticed the strong odor of intoxicants, and Heaper admitted to drinking some alcohol earlier in the night. A search of the vehicle revealed a partial bottle of whiskey between the driver’s side door and the driver’s seat. Heaper also admitted to using methamphetamine a few hours prior to the traffic stop. When attempting to perform field sobriety tests, Heaper performed poorly and showed numerous signs of impairment.
Heaper was charged with the class B felony of driving while intoxicated because he had previously been found guilty of D.W.I.-related offenses four (4) times, making him a chronic D.W.I. offender. Heaper was also charged as a prior and persistent felony offender, based upon his multiple past felony convictions. First-time and second-time D.W.I. offenses are generally heard in the Associate Circuit Courts, in Missouri, while third-time and higher D.W.I. offenses – like in this case – are felonies heard in the Circuit Court.