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Archive for Sunday, October 21, 2012

Drunken drivers can pose risk after incidents

Suspects allowed behind wheel while awaiting charges

October 21, 2012

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Crews work the scene of a head-on collision on the 900 block of Maine Street.

Crews work the scene of a head-on collision on the 900 block of Maine Street.

Shawnee County Jail mugshot of Justin M. Crawford. Police reports indicate that Crawford was driving in the wrong lane, causing a head-on collision Sept. 7 in the 900 block of Maine Street. Crawford, according to the police report, had at least three prior DUI convictions, and alcohol use is suspected in the accident. Toxicology results are pending.

Shawnee County Jail mugshot of Justin M. Crawford. Police reports indicate that Crawford was driving in the wrong lane, causing a head-on collision Sept. 7 in the 900 block of Maine Street. Crawford, according to the police report, had at least three prior DUI convictions, and alcohol use is suspected in the accident. Toxicology results are pending.

Drunken driving record

A drunken driver’s record — Justin M. Crawford’s legal history:

• Arrested and convicted in 1998 in Topeka for drunken driving. Paid a $562 fine, spent two days in jail and 12 months on probation.

• Arrested in 1999 on suspicion of drunken driving. Crawford refused an alcohol breath test and paid a $249 fine.

• Convicted in 2001 for drunken driving in Shawnee County. Paid a $1,000 fine and spent a year on probation.

• Caused an accident in 2004 in Topeka but fled the scene.

• Arrested in 2005, which later resulted in his third DUI conviction. Spent three months in jail, two years on house arrest, and his licence was suspended in 2006.

• Driver’s license was reinstated in 2009.

• If Crawford is convicted for drunken driving again, he would face a minimum $1,750 fine, 90 days to a year in jail, one year suspended license, and required use of an ignition interlock for two years. A conviction would count as his third DUI conviction, even though it would be his fourth, because offenses before 2001 are not counted toward the total.

— Information obtained from court and various state and county records.

A white Toyota RAV4 SUV driven by 39-year-old Lawrence resident Justin M. Crawford flew through the stoplight and busy intersection at Ninth and Maine streets on the afternoon of Sept. 7, heading south in excess of an estimated 60 mph in a 25 mph zone.

At the same time, Lawrence resident Lin Stearns, 49, and longtime friend Jean Drumm, 67, were heading north, about halfway down the 900 block of Maine Street after a swim at the Robinson Center, when they saw the SUV barreling straight at them.

An accident diagram from the police report shows the SUV driving on the left, and incorrect, side of the road when it collided head-on with Drumm’s Buick Century.

After the accident, both vehicles ended up on the grass near the sidewalk, cockeyed and heavily damaged. The front ends of both vehicles were crushed deep into the front seats.

Emergency workers spent 15 minutes extricating Drumm and Crawford from their vehicles. About a dozen people stood on the sidewalk, grimacing in horror as moans came from the SUV. A witness to the accident approached the trapped Crawford before emergency workers arrived, offering assistance.

Crawford kept saying, “Just kill me,” according to a police report.

Crawford and Drumm were taken to Kansas University Hospital in Kansas City, Kan., with serious injuries. Stearns, meanwhile, had a broken left ankle.

Police preliminarily noted alcohol intoxication, on the part of Crawford, as a contributing factor in the collision.

If blood tests sent in for testing confirm police suspicions, it wouldn’t be the first time a drunken Crawford had been caught driving on the wrong side of the road.

A Journal-World investigation discovered at least three previous drunken driving convictions for Crawford, dating back to 1999, including a 2006 conviction — his third — in which he was also charged with driving in the wrong lane. Over the years, Crawford’s license has been suspended, and he’s spent a few days in jail and several years on probation.

And after the Sept. 7 accident, Crawford — while possibly drunk — could have legally hopped back on the road later that day.

Despite new drunken driving laws enacted in recent years to protect Kansans against intoxicated drivers, it’s conceivable that Crawford, who could not be reached for comment about this story, could continue to drive for another year, or longer, before a possible case against him drags through the court system.

What can be done to keep drivers like Crawford in cases like this off the road in the meantime?

Lag time

It could take police and prosecutors months to charge Crawford. In serious injury cases, police often wait for a suspect’s blood work results before sending information to prosecutors for possible charges, as opposed to relying on an on-scene breath test in typical DUI cases. Two other local suspected drunken drivers face a similar situation in recent cases. Kansas University student Julian Kuszmaul, 21, has yet to be charged in an accident that severed a fellow KU student’s legs on Aug. 26. At the scene, officers suspected Kuszmaul was intoxicated on marijuana and alcohol.

In another case, a KU law school student, 25-year-old Jay E. Berryman, hit a pedestrian on Ninth Street on Sept. 2. The accident sent a fellow KU student to the hospital with serious injuries. Both Berryman and Kuszmaul are free to drive as they await possible charges.

But even when a habitual drunken driver ends up in custody immediately, there’s a chance he or she could be back on the road quickly.

On Oct. 7, Meriden resident Joshua Kane Matthews, 24, led police on a low-speed chase through the streets of Lawrence.

Police eventually deployed spike strips, flattening three of the vehicle’s tires, but Matthews continued traveling at a speed between 10 and 20 mph. Police were finally able to bring the vehicle to a stop after it hit the back of a patrol car near the intersection of Sixth Street and Kasold Drive.

Officers broke the vehicle’s window to apprehend Matthews, and they found both drugs and alcohol in the vehicle.

Douglas County Jail booking photo of Meriden man Joshua Kane Matthews, 24.

Matthews was arrested Oct. 7 after leading police on a low-speed chase through the streets of Lawrence. 

He was charged with 10 crimes, including aggravated assault, a third offense of driving while intoxicated, and fleeing law enforcement.

Douglas County Jail booking photo of Meriden man Joshua Kane Matthews, 24. Matthews was arrested Oct. 7 after leading police on a low-speed chase through the streets of Lawrence. He was charged with 10 crimes, including aggravated assault, a third offense of driving while intoxicated, and fleeing law enforcement.

Matthews, like Crawford, has multiple drunken driving convictions. A Journal-World search located at least two prior convictions, both in Geary County.

A few days after the incident, Matthews appeared via video conference from the Douglas County Jail before Douglas County District Court Judge Robert Fairchild and was formally charged with 10 crimes, including aggravated assault, a third offense of driving while intoxicated, and fleeing law enforcement.

Fairchild, after reading the charges, set Matthews’ bond at $15,000. If Matthews had come up with the bond, or enough to pay to a bail bondsman, he could’ve been back on the road in a matter of hours.

Options

The courts do have methods for keeping drivers such as Matthews — and Crawford, if he’s arrested — off the roads before a conviction, said Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe.

In Johnson County, judges, as a condition of bond, sometimes order defendants in repeat drunken driving cases to wear an alcohol-monitoring device, such as a Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring, or SCRAM, device. The devices, used frequently in probation and parole, attach to an ankle and periodically test the amount of alcohol in someone’s system. Results are then sent to a probation or parole office.

Basically, drink alcohol, and authorities will know. Drink alcohol while on bond and prohibited to do so, and a judge could order a defendant back to jail and off the streets.

The SCRAM devices are an option for habitual drunken drivers in Douglas County, but they just haven’t been used yet, said Fairchild, the county judge.

“It is one tool we could use,” Fairchild said.

But ordering defendants on bond to wear SCRAM devices poses some resource issues and wouldn’t completely keep habitual drunken drivers off the road, he said.

The Douglas County Community Corrections Department, which monitors probationers, has just 21 of the devices, which cost about $2,000. Those devices are used by the county’s probationers, and a supply for DUI offenders on bond would be limited.

There aren’t enough of the devices, and there are too many habitual drunken drivers revolving through the local court system, Fairchild said.

Fairchild also said the devices wouldn’t necessarily keep someone from driving drunk and causing a serious accident; it’s just that authorities would know someone had been drinking and could revoke bond after the fact.

The only surefire way to keep drivers with multiple convictions off the road is incarceration, Fairchild said. But even with someone who has 10 or more DUIs, the maximum sentence is one year in jail. That’s where the Legislature needs to step in and make the penalties harsher, Fairchild said.

“We would love to be able to have more teeth,” he said.

Fairchild, however, said the SCRAM devices would make sense in some local cases and could help keep a habitual drunken driver off the roads in the year or so before the case is resolved.

“That may be something we should think about,” he said.

Not the first time

As Stearns talks about the September accident that sent her and her longtime friend to the hospital, she has harsh words for Crawford. It wasn’t be the first time Stearns was hit head-on by a drunken driver — in 1981, Stearns spent six weeks in a coma, before waking to a traumatic brain injury and lifelong cognitive impairment, after being hit head-on by a drunken driver.

This time around, Stearns broke several bones in one of her legs.

Drumm, meanwhile, spent about a month in the hospital, and is currently at a rehabilitation facility healing from two broken legs.

Legislative measures, budget constraints and the rights of defendants are factors lost on Stearns. She simply wants the roads cleared of drunken drivers.

“Doesn’t he (Crawford) realize how he affects others’ lives?” Stearns asked.

Comments

shotgun 2 years ago

New state slogan, "Kansas, what a state! Its OK to Drink & Drive, and have sex with minors, as long as they are over 14!"

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Liberty275 2 years ago

That is a tasteless photo for the front page.

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John Hamm 2 years ago

No. It's not tasteless. It's authentic, it's real. Time some people wake up to what carnage is caused by drunken and inattentive driving describing doesn't seem to cut it any more. The victims aren't shown other than the medics working on them.

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Liberty275 2 years ago

The man will get his due process, so any other mention of him is irrelevant. My condolences to the injured. I hope you recover well.

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tomatogrower 2 years ago

I think it might be nice to know what the jerk looks like, in case you see him get into a car. Also, if I were the owner of a liquor store or bar, I would post his picture and refuse to sell him anything. It won't stop the alcoholic, but he'll have to go out of town to get his fix. Maybe he'll move to another community and endanger other people's lives. There are plenty of ways to help alcoholics, if they want help. This sorry excuse of a human being apparently doesn't want to be helped.

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tomatogrower 2 years ago

Drunk driving is not a right or a victimless crime.

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bearded_gnome 2 years ago

absolute law, no exceptions: second DUI the car gets seized!

Crawford had far too much probation and not enough prison.

death penalty for repeat DUI's anyone?

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Liberty275 2 years ago

The death penalty is barbaric.

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Ron Holzwarth 2 years ago

I'm constantly amazed at how some posters are all in favor of a culture that hands out the death penalty left and right (Palestinian), and really against a nation that does not have the death penalty at all anymore, having used it exactly one time, in 1962 (Israel).

It makes me wonder exactly what is their logical stance is on the death penalty, or if they've even carefully considered the matter at all.

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fearsadness14 2 years ago

why not make a convicted dui driver pay for the SCRAM device as part of their sentence?

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GUMnNUTS 2 years ago

Innocent until proven guilty in a court of law?

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jhawkinsf 2 years ago

Yes. In a Court of Law. But not necessarily so in an anonymous forum such as this.

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Russell Fryberger 2 years ago

As long as we have our idiotic way of handling repeat offenders they will continue to repeat their crimes, hurting, maiming and killing innocent people. Our laws need to show first time offenders that we will not tolerate dangerous criminals- armed robbers, drunk drivers, atc.

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Ron Holzwarth 2 years ago

How To Drive Drunk

Okay, so you're at a Bar, enjoying couple of good beers (and a couple more, and a couple more, and a couple more...) with your best buds, the bartender and that homeless dude, getting just a little tipsy. Don't stop drinking though, man, you deserve this! Your girlfriend left you, work is stressful, etc. Any excuse for you to get completely wasted, right? There's only one problem: How do you get home? Suddenly that homeless dude isn't looking so homeless, and he's not your designated driver, is he? No. Whatever. That means it's time to drive home. But you can't just drive home normally, you're drunk, so that means you have to drive home like you're drunk. Now let me help you out here. That's right, I can help you ruin your life. Just don't throw up on me.

1) Getting to your car

This is probably the most difficult part, but stick with me here, okay? Now, remember which one is your car. It's the yellow one, of course! Alright, now carefully make your way to your car. No, not that car. No, not that one either. Good grief, it's the one behind you! You got it? No, you don't. Here, just let me help you....

This is our end goal. You can achieve this.

BLEAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

Nice, man. That was a brand new shirt, too. Never mind, you can always wash the car. It's a good thing you did that before you got inside it.

2) Starting the car

Nice interior, man. Okay, now that we got you in here, just take out your keys. They're in your bag? Okay, get the bag out.

Dude, it's a purse. What are you doing with a purse? Oh, It's a manbag. It's okay, man. I understand the difference. I'll just ignore the fact that it's leopard print. We'll just focus on the keys for now. Come on, man, you just used them to unlock your car! Are they still out there? You left your keys hanging on the car door?

Wow, dude. cough Alright, I'll get them.

Got them. Seriously, dude, who unlocks their car door by hand anymore? Can't you just use the Unlock button? How drunk are you? Never mind. Alright, now start the car. Just put the key in the keyhole. You can do this. It's not hard. No, that's not the keyhole. Wrong side. Nope. Warmer. Warmer. Warrrmmmerrr. Nearly hot. Kind of hot. Almost there, and........ got it! Yes! Now turn it. Other direction. Congratulations, you just started your car while completely hammered.

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Ron Holzwarth 2 years ago

3) Getting out of the parking lot

Use the gear shift to go into Reverse. No, reverse before you drive. No! Oh, S***!

We're okay? Alright, we just won't tell that guy about his car. It was a Smart Car anyway. No one cares about those. Reverse this time. That's right. Reverse! You're lucky you have me here to help you.

4) The Highway

Now the fun part. You're drunk, you're driving, now it's time to live up to expectations. Time to drive like you're drunk. I'll guide you through it. Turn your headlights off. Now no one will see you coming. You'll just pop out of nowhere, and BAM!!!! Now, swerve like you're drunk. Hey, you're getting the hang of this! Oh, wait, dude, wake up! Wake up. You have to be awake, so you can conveniently survive the horrible crash. There's a technique to this, so that you can survive unscathed. All the drunk drivers do it. You know it.

See, people are giving you that fancy salute already! You're good! Faster! Faster! I know, I'm a speed freak. Woo-hoo!

Oh, s***. it's the cops! Quick! Drive faster!!! No, don't pull over! You're drunk, remember? You have to ruin your life in these few moments of freedom. Now, swerve in the opposite lane!

Happy Endings, man.

Yes! We did it! Congratulations, man! You are now an official drunk driver. You can now join the ranks of the Drunk Driving Clan! Yes, there's a clan. You didn't know there was a clan? You're drunk, you'll probably forget all about it, anyway. That's why no one knows about it. Hell, I don't even know about it. How am I telling you about it, you ask? You're drunk, you couldn't comprehend it.

Enjoy your time in jail! I'll probably be joining you. Man, that was fun!

HAHA! Dude! Look what you did to that guy's face!!!!!!

HAHAHA!!!!

Oh.... s***.

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tomatogrower 2 years ago

You know, I used to work in retail where we had to ask for id to cash checks. You'd be surprised how many people who had lost their license almost proudly flaunted the piece of paper that said they had lost their license. We wouldn't let them use it for their check cashing. Awww, too bad. They used to get so mad. Then when I worked as a para in schools, the students who had received a detention, were given a paper with the time and place the were to server their detention. They used to do the same thing. Show everyone how proud they were to have gotten in trouble. Just weird. No shame left in the world, I guess. Probably because it's always someone else's fault.

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Topple 2 years ago

I worked at a bank for a few years, and we required an ID from non-customers who were cashing a check written by a customer of our bank. I always enjoyed the discomfort people would show when they had the "Registered Offender" title in red on it. A lot more common than you'd expect.

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geoismeo 2 years ago

When this Crawford punk said "just kill me", its too bad someone did'nt!

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Topple 2 years ago

Those three words tells me that he's not willing to change. He'll do it again and again because he's too weak to change. Maybe our "justice" system will do something about him once he kills someone....but I'm not holding my breath.

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rubberband 2 years ago

My question is, why is it taking months, or even years, after the incident to file charges? And guess what? Even after charges are filed, their cases drag on and on and on and on for months in the courts before conviction and sentencing.

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shaunepec 2 years ago

Rubberband, Here's how police and the DA have explained it to us: They send the blood work into the KBI, where it can take months for results.

They do not arrest someone in such cases immediately, because if someone involved dies, it could affect the charge (i.e. could make it a manslaughter charge). If they charge someone with DUI right off the bat, and that person quickly pleads, they can't then charge with manslaughter later.

I'm not saying that's the way it should be, but just the way we understand why the length in time.

Hope that helps.

Shaun LJW

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jafs 2 years ago

Why on earth does it take months to get blood work done?

When I get my annual blood work, it takes about a week to get results.

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Ron Holzwarth 2 years ago

At the VA in Topeka, it takes less than 2 hours.

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grimpeur 2 years ago

The problem is that nobody--legislature, prosecutors, traffic courts--wants to take on the issue of truly unfit drivers.

Why not? Perhaps it's because there are so many loopholes and weasel cracks which allow bad drivers to keep driving, and so prosecutors are afraid to take cases to court, especially when the juries are made up of drunk drivers, cell phone addicts, gameboy geeks, and aggressive, inattentive, reckless drivers. That's right: the same people endangering your life on the roads are called for jury duty every day. You think they're going to convict anyone of crimes they themselves commit every day?

We got four crappy, cowardly, demonstrably unfit drivers who intentionally hit pedestrians or cyclists with their cars in the last couple years, and another who killed a sheriff's deputy because he couldn't be bothered to pull his head out of his cellphone long enough to look at the road ahead. You know how many of them lost their licenses? The answer is sad, but indicates that as long as courts allow repeat drunks back on the road; and allow drivers to get off by saying "I didn't see them," or "I didn't know I hit anything/anyone;" and bend over backwards trying to preserve the fictitious "right" to drive for these pathetic losers instead of busting them hard, fast, and consistently, with a presumption that every driver is responsible for where their car goes; and excuse inattention and negligence which reasonable people should understand is dangerous and potentially fatal; and avoid charging these criminals accordingly, nothing is going to change.

Personally, if I were Drumm, I'd be gathering the names of every Shawnee county judge, prosecutor, and traffic court attorney who let this guy go in the last ten years, along with some select legislators, rolling my wheelchair into their office and ask them this: "Why was this driver on the road? Will you finally come to your senses only when your child, your husband or your wife is killed? Or will you come to your senses before that? How about now?"

Our lack of prosecution only encourages this crime. Abets it. Allows it.

We need meaningful driver's tests. We need graduated licensing for heavier, more powerful vehicles. We need consistent suspension of licenses for habitual violators, not these fake traffic classes and payoffs to avoid suspensions or points on the license. And we need much, much stronger laws which hold drivers much more responsible for where their cars go and reject the "I didn't see them" defense; which hold repeat violators to a higher (perhaps "probationary") standard of care and responsibility; which don't ignore ongoing patterns of criminal behavior just because they happened more than 10 years ago (these long term patterns should be an aggravating factor, not dismissed!!!!); which include forfeitures like those enforced against drug dealers; and which provide increased civil and criminal penalties for inattentive, reckless, and aggressive drivers.

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