By Casey Smith
Indiana Capital Chronicle
Republican state Rep. Jim Lucas pleaded guilty Monday to two misdemeanors after he struck a guardrail and drove the wrong way on an interstate entrance ramp while intoxicated nearly two weeks ago.
Lucas, of Seymour, was formally charged by the Jackson County prosecutor with operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, a Class C misdemeanor, and leaving the scene of an accident, a Class B misdemeanor. In court Monday, the lawmaker pleaded guilty to both charges.
Speaking out for the first time since the crash, Lucas said on WIBC’s conservative talk radio show Hammer and Nigel that “this is a hiccup” and he won’t resign.
“I screwed up. I’m human, I made a mistake, and then compounded it with some bad decision making,” Lucas said Monday. “One bad decision should not weigh on a person’s integrity or their capabilities for the rest of their life.”
He received a 60-day suspended sentence on the OWI charge, and a 180-day suspended sentence for leaving the scene.
As part of his plea agreement, Lucas will spend one year on probation — although that could end in as few as six months once he pays court and probation fees, completes an alcohol and drug program, and pays nearly $4,000 for crash repairs and restitution to the Indiana Department of Transportation. He faces substance abuse screenings and must attend a victim impact panel, too.
Lucas faces jail time if he violates probation.
His driver’s license is additionally suspended for 60 days, but Jackson County Superior Court Judge Bruce A. MacTavish granted Lucas specialized driving privileges in eight Indiana counties “for the sole purpose of conducting business” for the lawmaker’s Seymour-based company, The Awning Guy, Inc., between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, according to an order issued Monday.
There were no exemptions for legislative-related travel, though the General Assembly is not in session.
Lucas failed multiple field sobriety tests, including a horizontal gaze assessment — following a pen light with his eyes — according to the probable cause affidavit obtained by the Indiana Capital Chronicle. He also could not walk in a straight line or stand on one foot.
Police said Lucas also submitted to a portable breathalyzer test that showed his blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at .097 — higher than the .08 legal limit in Indiana.
Lucas told officers he was out celebrating with his wife and then “life threw him a curveball” before the crash, according to the affidavit. When asked by police to provide a statement about what happened, Lucas said, “I thought I saw a deer, how’s that?”
Police Give Post-Crash Narrative
Lucas drove nearly three miles away from the crash scene — with three busted tires — according to Indiana State Police.
ISP received a call from a witness just after midnight on May 31 about a vehicle that had struck a guardrail and “traveled the wrong way” on an Interstate 65 ramp near the State Road 11 interchange, according to an ISP crash report obtained by the Indiana Capital Chronicle.
Shortly after, a Seymour police officer found a 2012 Toyota Tundra with “extensive front end damage and three tires missing” parked behind Carpet Gallery — a local carpet and flooring business — on State Road 11, north of Seymour. That’s about 2.8 miles south from the crash site.
An officer also found Lucas walking nearby, across State Road 11. Lucas initially “refused to answer questions,” but he later told a state trooper that “he swerved to miss a deer and lost control” of his truck. According to the crash report, Lucas also said he “believed he could make it home, and that is why he left the crash scene and continued to drive for several miles with three flat tires.”
When asked why he parked behind the carpet business, Lucas reportedly told officers that “he did not want to leak oil in front of the business” because he was concerned that could cause the business to “lose customers.”
Security footage at Carpet Gallery captured Lucas parking his truck outside the business and was later reviewed by police. Lucas was seen taking photos of the damage and making phone calls before he walked away from the truck, according to the probable cause affidavit.
State police said Lucas smelled of alcohol at the scene. “Clues” from field sobriety tests and “the odor of an alcoholic beverage” coming from Lucas led police to believe he was intoxicated.
Lucas was later taken to a local hospital for a blood draw but reported no injuries from the crash. State police said Lucas’ toxicology results are still pending and could take several weeks to get back.
According to the crash report, the truck had heavy front-end damage to the grill and bumper, no tires on the front driver’s side or rear passenger’s side, and the front passenger’s side tire was blown out but still attached to the wheel. The truck’s rims were worn down too, and grass and dirt debris were stuck to the underside of the trailer hitch.
Damage from the crash
Police said in the crash report that the truck was gone by the time they arrived at the initial crash site. They immediately spotted a badly damaged guardrail along the interstate, as well as tire tracks, plastic vehicle debris, and a trail of fluid that went north on I-65 before heading south in the wrong direction on the entrance ramp from State Road 11.
ISP’s preliminary investigation showed Lucas was driving south on State Road 11 when he went off the road, down a large hill, and hit the guardrail, which pushed it into the right lane of I-65 north. After that, Lucas allegedly continued driving across all three lanes of I-65 north, striking the median guardrail.
After doing a U-turn and going the wrong way on the entrance ramp, Lucas continued to drive for nearly 3 miles before parking his truck behind the local business, according to the crash report. He left the truck with one pistol and a pocket knife but left another gun in the abandoned vehicle, police said.
In total, the crash caused an estimated $25,000 to $50,000 in damages to Lucas’ vehicle and the guardrails he struck, according to the crash report.
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