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Driver in Kansas DUI fatality given probation, no jail time

A complicated criminal case was resolved after the Kansas defendant entered a plea of no contest for a drunk-driving crash. The elementary school teacher was accused of misdemeanor DUI, which legal experts said was usually a felony offense with alcohol-related fatalities.

The judge in the fatal accident case saw negligence on both sides. A 28-year-old motorcyclist was speeding along a road in west Wichita when he lost his life in the June 2011 collision. The car that struck the biker was operated by the teacher, whose blood alcohol level registered 0.11, above the state limit of 0.08.

The 43-year-old car driver admitted she had consumed a margarita at her parent's home before getting behind the wheel. Investigators determined the motorcycle had been going 120 mph in a 30 mph zone at the time it was hit. The bike operator, an aviation employee on the way to visit a friend, died of his injuries within hours of the crash.

The elementary school teacher confessed that she might have been distracted by another vehicle prior to the accident. Prosecutors said the defendant pulled out in front of the motorcyclist, although the woman told police her vehicle was the one that was struck.

The judge did not impose a six-month jail term as prosecutors recommended. Instead, he ruled that the defendant should be placed on probation. The woman is forbidden from visiting alcohol vendors, must speak with students about drunk driving and attend a parenting class.

Police are investigating whether a second car following the teacher was driven by her son - a 13 or 14-year-old at the time - reportedly because the defendant's husband was also intoxicated. The judge openly wondered whether the husband might have been driving.

The motorcyclist's fiancé received $100,000 from the teacher's insurer after filing a wrongful death complaint. Legal actions in civil courts can be hampered by no contest pleas, which often cannot be used to prove negligence.

Source:, "Woman gets probation for DUI in deadly crash," Tim Potter, Sept. 14, 2012

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