A birthday celebration for Alice Walton last week ended on a sour note when the Wal-Mart heiress was arrested in Weatherford on suspicion of driving while intoxicated.
"Ms. Walton was pulled over by a patrolman with the Department of Public Safety for driving 71 miles per hour in an unattended 55 miles per hour construction zone," her attorney, Dee J. Kelly, said in a statement. "She was returning home from a birthday dinner with friends at a Fort Worth restaurant. She accepts full responsibility for this unfortunate incident and deeply regrets it."
Senior trooper Gary Rozzell said Walton was pulled over by trooper Jeff Davis on Oct. 7 -- her 62nd birthday -- for a traffic violation about 10:22 p.m. on Interstate 20 at Farm Road 51.
"During the traffic stop, evidence was collected to the point that trooper Davis thought she was an impaired driver," Rozzell said. "She did cooperate with a field sobriety test at the scene. ... It indicated intoxication and on that, she was arrested."
Rozzell said Walton refused the trooper's request for a breath test. Because the stop did not involve a fatal or serious wreck, a mandatory blood draw was not warranted, he said.
"We just handled it like any other first-offense DWI," Rozzell said.
Media reports, however, indicate that this isn't the first time Walton has been accused of driving under the influence.
A 1998 Associated Press article states that Walton was convicted in May 1998 of driving while intoxicated in Springdale, Ark., and ordered to pay $925 in fines and court costs and perform 28 hours of community service. Walton did not appeal her conviction, the article stated.
Walton had been accused of crashing her sport utility vehicle into a gas meter and telephone box, then telling an officer at the scene, "You know who I am, don't you? You know my last name?"
A test taken hours later showed that Walton had a 0.16 blood-alcohol level -- more than 11/2 times the legal limit at the time, the article states.
Rozzell said a criminal history check on Walton did not uncover any previous DWIs in Texas, Arkansas or elsewhere.
"We knew she came here from Arkansas so we asked Arkansas specifically, and they had no record for us," Rozzell said.
Parker County Attorney John Forrest said the DPS, along with his office, will conduct further research into the matter. If the earlier conviction is confirmed, the charge against Walton could be enhanced, he said.
A first-offense DWI is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to a $2,000 fine, six months in jail and 100 hours of community service. A second offense is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a $4,000 fine, a year in jail and 200 hours of community service.
Walton, the daughter of the late Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, lives on a ranch in the Millsap area.
With a net worth of almost $21 billion, Walton is ranked No. 10 on the Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans and 21st on the Forbes list of the world's billionaires.