Judge Rejects Plea Deal in Fatal DUI Case

A judge in Grand County, Colorado rejected a plea agreement reached between a DUI driver and the prosecution.  Last year on the 4th of July, Lucas Ackerman hit and killed Gregory Westley who was walking back from a fireworks display.  Four others were also injured.  Ackerman’s blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit and he had a prior DUI on his record.

The defense and prosecution came to an agreement that Ackerman would plead guilty to the DUI and serve one year of jail, the maximum amount of jail time that can be served for a DUI.  In addition, Ackerman would receive a deferred judgment and sentence for the vehicular homicide charge.  Vehicular homicide is a felony.  Ackerman was charged with the felony because he was driving under the influence when he hit and killed Westley.

A deferred judgment and sentence would have given Ackerman the ability to avoid a felony conviction so long as he complied with the terms and conditions of his probation.  The agreement called for a four year probationary term, the maximum length of probation allowed by law for a deferred judgment.  The judge rejected the plea agreement, indicating it was too lenient of a sentence.  As a result, the parties will have to see if they can fashion a new agreement.  Because the plea agreement was rejected, Ackerman’s guilty pleas to the DUI and vehicular homicide do not stand either, which means, if the parties cannot reach a new agreement that is acceptable to the judge, Ackerman may still end up going to trial on the case.

The prosecution indicated that the offer was based on a potential proof problem with the case.  Investigators have opined that the accident would have occurred regardless of whether Ackerman was drunk.  This is not a potential problem as far as the DUI charge is concerned, but may be a problem with respect to the vehicular assault charge.