5 years probation for DUI accident with kids in vehicle | RecordCourier.com
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5 years probation for DUI accident with kids in vehicle

by Sheila Gardner
sgardner@recordcourier.com

A 44-year-old Johnson Lane woman who drove drunk with three children in her vehicle and caused a traffic accident was sentenced Tuesday to five years probation and ordered not to drive for at least a year.

Tamara Kim Smith pleaded guilty to attempted child abuse or neglect, admitting she was drunk when she drove her two children and a neighbor’s son to a birthday party on May 21.

Smith’s blood-alcohol content was .113, over the legal limit of .08 for driving.

“If you drive, if you drink, I will send you to prison,” said District Judge Dave Gamble. “This was a close call for me because of the danger you put those children in.”

Smith ran a stop sign a block from her Johnson Lane-area home and collided with another vehicle.

Paramedics responded to the scene, but parties in the accident refused treatment.

“It must be hard to imagine anything good coming out of this,” Smith said.

Since her arrest, Smith has undergone in-patient treatment for alcohol abuse and mental health issues.

Her lawyer, Kris Brown, said Smith viewed the incident as a wake-up call, grateful that the children weren’t injured and she didn’t lose custody.

“I will stay on track with all programs,” Smith said.

Brown said Smith has realized the impact alcohol had on her relationship with her children and her husband.

Smith was proactive in seeking treatment, realizing she had a drinking problem, couldn’t recover on her own and needed to obtain the tools to help her stay sober, Brown said.

“She understands she is looking at the possibility of prison and it scares her, not so much fear for herself, but the impact it will have on her children,” Brown said.

Prosecutor Tom Gregory asked that Gamble forbid Smith from driving for the five years of her probation.

“That’s something we can say to the community, that she’s prohibited from driving for the entire time of her probation,” Gregory said.

Gamble ordered her not to drive for the next year and said he would review the condition annually.

Gregory referred to a Aug. 10 sentencing of 28-year-old John Tabor who received five years in prison for driving drunk with his 9-year-old son in his vehicle.

“He ended up going to prison because he was (previously) given the chance for probation and treatment and didn’t take advantage of it,” Gregory said.

“I am a little concerned for her (Smith). We see a lot of addicts go through treatment, then say, ‘I’m cured,’ not realizing it’s a lifelong commitment,” Gregory said.

Gamble said there were dramatic differences in the two cases.

“You end up with a sequence of cases that at first glance appear very similar. It’s the job of the judge to pick apart what is appropriate and not just hand down a blanket sentence,” Gamble said.

In Tabor’s case, his blood-alcohol content was .196. The driver of the vehicle he struck was seriously injured, and he had a prior drunk driving conviction from 2007 in which he struck a 3-year-old girl with his pickup truck, slightly injuring the child. He was drunk and left the scene.

The judge expressed concern over Smith’s statement early in her recovery that she would like to be able to “just drink like a normal person.”

He told Smith to put herself in the place of the mother of the boy who was in the car with her children.

“Step out of yourself. What would you have thought of a woman who took her two kids and a neighbor’s child to a birthday party in the middle of the day, drunk, and got in an accident? That is so far removed from normalcy,” he said.

He sentenced Smith to 12-32 months in prison, suspended for five years.

Terms of her probation include attendance at no less than three 12-step or approved recovery programs per week; no drugs or alcohol; random search and seizure; outpatient treatment; parenting class; no unsupervised contact with the passenger or his family; substance abuse and mental health programs as ordered by parole and probation; no driving for one year.

Smith is to be sentenced Wednesday in East Fork Justice Court for her second driving under the influence offense stemming from the accident.