BEAUFORT — District Attorney Scott Thomas announced last week Matthew James Kitchen, 44, of Havelock, was found guilty by a jury in Carteret County Superior Court of felony habitual impaired driving.
The decision came during the first trial term of court in Carteret County following the resumption of jury trials, which had been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. Judge Joshua Willey Jr. presided over the trial and sentenced Mr. Kitchen as a habitual felon for a term of 12 to 15 years’ imprisonment in the Department of Adult Corrections.
“This prosecution sends a clear message to repeat impaired drivers in our district that we will prosecute you and seek a very long prison sentence,” Mr. Thomas said in a release sent by his office. “We were able to obtain an even longer prison sentence in this case since the defendant qualified as a habitual felon. We must keep our highways safe by identifying, charging, and prosecuting impaired drivers.”
According to the indictments, filed July 13, and information presented in open court, Mr. Kitchen was charged with driving while impaired after a concerned person called 911 May 1, 2017, to request a welfare check on the occupants of an older model Oldsmobile Cutlass. A Morehead City police officer located the Oldsmobile and initiated a traffic stop due to the vehicle traveling at a speed of 55 mph in a 35-mph zone along Highway 70.
Mr. Kitchen was found to be operating the vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.12, which is above the legal limit of 0.08.
Upon review by the district attorney’s office, Mr. Kitchen’s charges were upgraded to felony habitual driving while impaired based upon his having been previously convicted of impaired driving Carteret County on three occasions in 2000, in Onslow County in 2012, in Wayne County also in 2012 and in Carteret County again in 2013. Additionally, in 2013, Mr. Kitchen was convicted in Carteret County Superior Court of habitual impaired driving, and he also obtained the status of habitual felon.
The criminal investigation of this case was conducted by the Morehead City Police Department, and it was prosecuted in court by Assistant District Attorney Ashley Eatmon.