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Kansas drunk driving crash victim hopes for tougher laws

Topeka lawmakers are considering revision of criminal laws for alcohol-related traffic accidents. The addition of a Kansas DUI aggravated battery law would give authorities the opportunity to charge defendants with a felony for injurious drunk driving accidents.

The laws now limit prosecutors who cannot show that a defendant was reckless and impaired by alcohol at the time of an injury car wreck.

A Herington accident victim wishes the Kansas Legislature had acted sooner than last fall. That's when part of the man's leg was severed in a drunk-driving accident on U.S. Highway 56.

The driver who plowed into the victim as he tried to move a friend's disabled vehicle off the road could spend just three months in jail. The defendant's blood alcohol level was 0.20 at the time of the accident. The state and national BAC limit is 0.08.

This is the driver's second drunk-driving conviction.

The defendant reached a plea agreement with prosecutors that dropped every accident-related charge except DUI, a misdemeanor. Under state laws as they exist, the driver will serve a mandatory minimum jail term of 90 days. A sentencing judge could bump that term up to a full year.

The victim of the accident was hospitalized for three months, enduring multiple surgeries. He has had nightmares since September.

The limited ability to move without the use of his leg makes it impossible for the permanently injured man to work and earn income. His health and financial standing are at risk. The lack of law to punish drunk drivers severely depresses him.

Criminal courts may not have the power to mete out the justice DUI accident victims seek, but civil courts do. Compensation for damages is available to victims who can prove injuries were the result of negligence.

Personal injury lawsuits hinge on evidence that a defendant caused harm without thinking about the plaintiff's safety. The act of driving drunk often qualifies.

Source: kwch.com, "DUI victim pushes for tougher laws in Kansas," Pilar Pedraza, Feb. 8, 2013

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