February 27, 2020  Last Update: November 12, 2019, 4:01 pm

Prosecutor Forrest Wegge: DUI is not Wreckless Behavior (even when it kills)

This just in: St. Louis Today website reports that 43 year old Steven Mitchell, charged with drunk driving that killed a highway construction worker in 2011, pleaded guilty to the charges and is going to jail. For 30 days.

The charges were aggravated endangerment of a highway worker, drunken driving, and careless driving. Mitchell killed twenty-nine year old construction worker Jorge Carranza Jr. while driving around midnight with a reported BAC of 0.14% (well over the legal limit 0.08%). The work crew was on the highway when Mitchell drove his Cadillac past cones and into Carranza, who later died of his injuries.

The Judge in the case actually asked the prosecuting attorney why manslaughter charges had not been levied against Mitchell. According to StLToday.com, Jefferson County Prosecuter Forrest Wegge said that a manslaughter charge requires “reckless behavior”, and since Mitchell wasn’t speeding, Prosecutor Wegge didn’t feel confident making a claim of reckless behavior.

That’s correct. The prosecutor did not feel that driving drunk into a construction zone and killing a construction worker was “reckless”, and therefore the driver got only 30 days in jail.

"We spent a lot of time looking at this and we felt the evidence supported the charges that we filed," Jefferson County Prosecutor Forrest Wegge said after the sentencing. A manslaughter charge requires that prosecutors show reckless behavior, which Wegge said they couldn’t prove.

Thirty days is very little for a death in a DWI case, but Mitchell has to also pay a $10,000 fine and is on probation. News accounts at the time of the crash mentioned “41-year-old Steven Mitchell of Imperial” while today’s report says “43 year old” Mitchell lives on the 7300 block of Sunridge Drive in Barnhart.

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Jefferson County Prosecutor Wegge thinks driving drunk and killing someone isn’t reckless behavior.



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