JUST IN: SXSW chief programming officer charged with DWI


South by Southwest’s chief programming officer was arrested last month and charged with DWI, his arrest affidavit shows.

An Austin officer stopped Hugh Forrest, 55, on Airport Boulevard around 10:45 p.m. Feb. 16, records show.

The officer saw Forrest slowing down at a stop sign, and when the vehicle came to a full stop, three-fourths of the vehicle had already gone beyond the stop line and into the crosswalk, his arrest affidavit says. Forrest’s right tires then crossed into a bike lane and traveled in it for about 200 to 300 feet, the affidavit says.

Forrest admitted to drinking one vodka cranberry drink that night and taking two DayQuil pills earlier that morning, the affidavit says.

A preliminary breath test showed Forrest had a blood alcohol content of 0.00, the affidavit says. Forrest could have been “under the influence of a CNS stimulant and is unsafe to operate a vehicle safely,” the document says, adding that Forrest exhibited eyelid tremors, high blood pressure and dilated pupils.

Dayquil can produce CNS stimulation.

The affidavit adds that Forrest lost his balance several times while standing in position. 

Forrest’s attorney, Brian Roark, said he expects Forrest will be exonerated once the results of his blood test come back.

A field sobriety test “showed no signs of alcohol or drugs in Mr. Forrest’s system,” Roark said in a statement. “The two agility tests that followed were performed consistently with someone who has had two hip replacements, as Mr. Forrest has.”

Austin police Det. Mike Jennings, the Police Department’s DWI program coordinator, said it’s common for Austin police to try to determine if drivers are intoxicated from other substances besides alcohol.

“If it impairs you, you can be arrested for DWI,” Jennings said.

Forrest oversees content for the entire conference and festival. 

Forrest started with South by Southwest as part of the multimedia portion of SXSW Film Fest in 1994. As director of the Interactive portion of SXSW, he guided the tech portion of SXSW through explosive attendance gains from around 2007-2012 that helped grow the festival as a whole.


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