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No legislative discipline in sight for Indiana lawmaker who admitted drunken driving

Republican Indiana State Rep. Jim Lucas was arrested on May 31, 2023, near Seymour for drunk driving and leaving the scene of an accident, Indiana State Police confirm. (Provided Photo/Jackson County Sheriff's Office)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — An Indiana state lawmaker isn’t facing any immediate legislative discipline after pleading guilty to drunken driving charges for crashing his pickup truck through an interstate highway guardrail and driving away.

Republican Rep. Jim Lucas of Seymour signed an agreement Monday 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 the accident.

Lucas said in a statement after Monday’s court hearing that he took “full responsibility” for his actions surrounding the May 31 crash and would continue in his legislative position.

Republican House Speaker Todd Huston said Tuesday he had not yet reviewed the plea agreement and wanted to see that Lucas gets “the help that he needs and make sure that situation doesn’t happen again.”

When asked whether Lucas would face any disciplinary action by the Legislature, Huston said he was “obviously disappointed” by Lucas’ actions.

“I haven’t had really a chance to talk to him,” Huston said. “I’ll take a look at it and see what we do moving forward.”

This year’s legislative session ended in April and lawmakers won’t return for another full-time session until January.

The plea agreement calls for no additional jail time for Lucas, 58, as long as he completes at least 180 days of supervised probation, including alcohol or drug abuse treatment if mandated by the county probation department, and pays about $4,000 in restitution to the state highway department to repair damage from the crash.

Lucas, who was first elected to the Legislature in 2012, is allowed to keep his position as 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 over social media posts decried as “sickening” by Democrats and “unacceptable” by Republicans.

Police said officers stopped Lucas walking near where they found his truck parked behind a Seymour carpet store nearly 3 miles from the crash site at the Interstate 65 and Indiana 11 interchange. The truck had major front-end damage and three flat tires, two of which had been worn down to the metal wheel rims.

Lucas smelled of alcohol, failed a field sobriety exam and had a blood-alcohol level of 0.097% on a portable breath test device. The state’s legal limit to drive is 0.08%.

Jackson County Prosecutor Jeff Chalfant said the plea agreement with Lucas was standard for a first-time drunken driving charge.