Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Man gets prison for DUI accident

Prosecutor says victim suffered permanent injury

Express Staff Writer

Justin Ray Allen

A 21-year-old Hailey man was sentenced Monday to five years in prison for being drunk and causing an accident last April that permanently injured another motorist.

Judge Robert J. Elgee ruled that Justin Ray Allen was "not a candidate for probation" because he had repeatedly violated court orders allowing his release from jail following the crash.

"One of the aggravating things here is that you haven't shown the ability to avoid drinking, or do other things that are ordered by the court," Elgee said at sentencing in Blaine County 5th District Court. "Considering all those things, I think a penitentiary sentence is required."

Elgee ordered that Allen spend two and a half years in prison before he is eligible for parole.

Public defender Cheri Hicks argued for leniency for her client, telling the court that he's "almost a child—not quite a man."

Allen pleaded guilty to aggravated DUI, a felony, in August. In exchange for his guilty plea, a misdemeanor count of leaving the scene of an accident was dismissed.

The accident occurred April 11 on state Highway 75 south of St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center. According to police reports, Allen was southbound when he first crashed his vehicle into a utility post, kept on driving and then swerved into the northbound lane of traffic, striking two vehicles, one of them head on.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Matt Fredback said at Monday's sentencing hearing that accident-victim Agusto Leiva-Aquirre, a 30-year-old Hailey man, suffered a spiral fracture of a femur that required insertion of a rod into the bone to repair the injury.

"To this day he walks with a limp, and he will continue to walk with a limp because of that," Fredback said.

"Mr. Allen was four times the legal limit when he stepped into his car that night—he put everyone on the highway in danger," Fredback said. "He almost killed a guy."

Fredback told the court that anything less than a prison sentence would "depreciate the seriousness of the crime."

"This guy is dangerous, and it's only a matter of time before something else happens," he said.

Fredback further noted that contrary to court orders, Allen continued to drink alcohol and smoke marijuana even after he was released from jail.

"Three times he tested positive for marijuana, and he tested positive for alcohol in August," Fredback said.

Hicks acknowledged that Allen has alcohol and drug problems, but noted that he has no prior DUI or felony convictions and is well thought of as a "good worker" by his employer.

She further said that Allen did not plan on driving the evening of the accident and has no recollection of what happened.

"He did not make a conscious decision to get in a car a drive," Hicks said. "The next thing he knew, he woke up in the hospital. He does not remember getting in the accident."

Allen told the court he was sorry.

"It's not that I would have chosen to do that had I made a conscious decision," he said.

Elgee said that whether or not Allen remembers what happened is not relevant.

"The bottom line is, maybe you didn't want it to happen, maybe you didn't mean it to happen, maybe you didn't intend it to happen, but it did happen," the judge said.

According to court records, Allen's blood-alcohol content on the evening of the accident was .297. The legal driving limit in Idaho is .08.

Terry Smith:

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