Indiana lawmaker charged with drunken driving after highway crash
SEYMOUR, Ind. (AP) — An Indiana state legislator pleaded guilty Monday to drunken driving charges less than two weeks after police say he crashed his pickup truck through an interstate highway guardrail and drove away.
Republican Rep. Jim Lucas of Seymour signed an agreement with the prosecutor in southern Indiana’s Jackson County in which he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of driving while intoxicated and leaving the scene of an accident at the interchange of Interstate 65 and Indiana 11 early May 31, court records show.
The agreement calls for no additional jail time for Lucas as long as he completes at least 180 days of supervised probation, including completion of any alcohol or drug abuse treatment as determined by the county probation department.
Lucas, who was first elected to the Legislature in 2012, is allowed to keep his position; state law only prohibits those with felony convictions from holding elected office. Lucas is a prominent supporter of legalizing marijuana and loosening state gun laws. He has faced controversy several times for what critics called racist social media posts.
Police said officers stopped Lucas, 58, walking near where they found the badly damaged truck, which has a state legislator license plate, parked behind a Seymour carpet store nearly 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) from the crash site.
A state trooper’s affidavit filed with the criminal charges earlier Monday said Lucas smelled of alcohol, failed a field sobriety exam and had a blood-alcohol level of 0.097% on a portable breath test device more than an hour after the crash. The state’s legal limit to drive is 0.08%.
A voicemail and text messages seeking comment were sent to Lucas’ cellphone after Monday’s hearing. His legislative office hasn’t commented on the arrest. An email message seeking comment on the plea agreement was sent to Jackson County Prosecutor Jeff Chalfant.
Lucas’ pickup truck was found with major front-end damage and three flat tires, two of which had been worn down to the metal wheel rims, police reports said.
Lucas told a state trooper that he drove away from the crash scene to get help and that he parked behind the business because he didn’t want to leave an oil leak in its front parking lot, the affidavit said.
When asked what caused the crash, Lucas told the trooper, “I thought I saw a deer, how’s that?”
The lawmaker said he swerved to miss the animal, losing control of his truck, which veered off Indiana 11, down a hill at the interchange with I-65, through a guardrail and across traffic lanes to hit the median guardrail, the police affidavit said.
The plea agreement called for his driver’s license to be suspended for 60 days, although the judge gave Lucas permission to drive on weekdays for trips connected to the awning business he owns.
Lucas also agreed to pay about $4,000 in restitution to the state highway department for damage repairs from the crash.
An email was sent Monday to Republican House Speaker Todd Huston’s spokeswoman, who previously said the speaker would not be commenting on what she called “Lucas’ personal matter.”