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Straight plea entered in case involving head-on collision

Recently, a teacher and pastor admitted to causing a crash that killed a young woman in February 2018.

Through his attorney, the man agreed to make a “straight plea.” What does this mean?

What happened

The woman was on her way to work as a Minneapolis emergency dispatcher when the defendant hit her car head-on while driving the wrong way on Highway 252. The attending medical team pronounced her dead at the scene and took him to the hospital with multiple injuries.

Plea decision

Originally, the defendant faced three counts of criminal vehicular homicide, one of which alleged that he was drunk at the time of the crash. Testing placed his blood alcohol concentration level at 0.168 percent, which is more than twice the legal limit for Minnesota drivers, and he admitted intoxication. However, the prosecution dropped two counts prior to sentencing.

As to the one that remained, alleging that he was grossly negligent, the defense and the prosecution agreed to leave sentencing up to the judge through a straight plea, meaning that the defendant admitted guilt in causing the collision that took the young woman’s life. According to the County Attorney’s Office, the defense was seeking no more than four years’ prison time, although the penalty for criminal vehicular homicide in Minnesota is a maximum of 10 years with a fine of $20,000.

Ordinary penalties

In the state of Minnesota, a DWI conviction can break down into various forms: misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor or felony. A first-time offender arrested for driving while intoxicated usually faces the penalties associated with a misdemeanor, but even so, the penalties can include up to 90 days in jail and a fine of $1,000.

If there are aggravating circumstances, such as having a child in the car who is under the age of 16 or if the driver refuses to take a breath test, the DWI penalties escalate. If a drunk driver causes the death of another person, as in this case, what might have been an ordinary misdemeanor becomes a felony. At this point, there will be legal options to explore, but one possibility is that the defendant will admit guilt and enter a straight plea.

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