District attorney: Congressional candidate Kevin Yoder entered guilty plea in 2009 to not taking breath test

Republican 3rd Congressional District candidate Kevin Yoder pleaded guilty to refusing to take a preliminary breath test in connection with a 2009 incident, Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson said Monday.

“If someone is going to obstruct a DUI investigation, we are going to require that they plead to refusal of a PBT,” Branson said Monday.

Yoder’s campaign said he was not driving under the influence.

“Kevin was pulled over for speeding,” said Alissa McCurley, a spokeswoman for Yoder. “He was asked to take a field sobriety test, which he passed.”

Some questions have arisen about whether refusal to take a preliminary breath triggers suspension of a driver’s license by the state.

James Keller, deputy general counsel for the Kansas Department of Revenue, said that isn’t the case.

“We don’t suspend for a person refusing to take a preliminary breath test,” Keller said.

Yoder, an Overland Park Republican and current state House member, faces Democrat Stephene Moore and Libertarian Jasmin Talbert in the Nov. 2 election. The 3rd District includes eastern Lawrence and Douglas County plus Johnson and Wyandotte counties.

Yoder, driving a 2002 Lexus, was pulled over on Kansas Highway 10 east of Lawrence by a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper at 2:31 a.m. Feb. 8, 2009, Branson said.

He was given a ticket for going 80 mph in a 70 mph zone and for refusing to submit to the preliminary breath test. It appears he was given a citation at the scene and not taken into custody.

On March 25, Yoder’s attorney Scott Gyllenborg filed a motion for a continuance because of a court conflict, and the matter was rescheduled for April 3, according to the Douglas County district attorney’s office.

On April 3, Gyllenborg appeared and requested a continuance to apply for a diversion for Yoder.

But the district attorney’s office said in a statement: “Mr. Yoder ultimately did not apply for diversion but entered into a plea agreement with the district attorney’s office.”

On June 4, Gyllenborg on Yoder’s behalf entered a plea of guilty to refusal to a preliminary breath test. The court ordered a $90 fine plus court costs.

“We view the refusal of a preliminary breath test as an obstruction of a driving under the influence investigation and therefore we require a plea to that charge,” said Chief Assistant District Attorney Amy McGowan. “The speeding infraction was dismissed as part of the plea agreement.”

Moore’s campaign manager Matt Sinovic criticized Yoder’s actions.

“Kevin Yoder’s irresponsible actions … are inexcusable. His lies in attempt to cover up these facts are an insult to the voters of the 3rd District,” Sinovic said.

McCurley defended Yoder.

“He was issued a speeding ticket and then asked to take a preliminary Breathalyzer test. He declined because he had passed the sobriety test. Kevin was not driving under the influence. He paid the fine for one citation, the other was dismissed,” she said.

A preliminary breath test is a portable device that can measure whether there is a high concentration of alcohol.

Keller said the results cannot be used as evidence in court. They are usually used to assist an officer in determining if there is reasonable cause to make an arrest or grounds for an officer to request that the person take a more accurate breath test. Refusing to take the more accurate breath test can result in suspension of a driver’s license, although there are several ways to appeal that action in an administrative review and court review.