(DERBY, Kan.) A Derby father says all Kansans should be disappointed with the state’s DUI laws. Matt Liston’s son, Colby, lost both his legs in a crash in Lawrence last August.
After a four month investigation, Liston says he’s been told the Douglas County District Attorney is charging the driver involved with misdemeanor DUI. The charge could result little or no jail time, despite evidence showing the 21 year-old’s blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit.
“It’s not right that you can injure somebody this severely and not have any consequences for it,” says Matt Liston.
Eyewitness News has followed Colby Liston’s recovery since the crash last summer. The former Derby High football star had both legs severed when he was pinned between two vehicles. He’s now a double amputee.
Matt Liston says Douglas Co. District Attorney Charles Branson told him the driver would not be facing the tougher charge of felony aggravated battery.
“They did what was easy instead of doing what was difficult and right by Colby. I don’t think they did right by Colby. And in my opinion they’re not doing right by the citizens of Douglas County.”
Eyewitness News contacted Branson to ask about the charges filed. He issued a written response saying he’s following case law determined by the Kansas Supreme Court.
He cites this case law which states states that additional evidence, beyond evidence that an accused was driving under the influence of alcohol, is necessary to create probable cause for reckless aggravated battery charges. Simply driving under the influence of alcohol does not, standing along, amount to reckless behavior.
Branson goes on to say in the case with Liston, there’s no evidence of additional reckless behavior that would satisfy the Supreme Court’s definition. “The Douglas County D.A.’s Office disagrees with the Supreme Court’s interpretation; however, it is bound to follow it,” Branson writes.
Perhaps Matt Liston’s bigger issue should be the Kansas law itself.
Wichita attorney Jess Hoeme, who specializes in DUI law, says even an aggravated battery conviction in this case would probably result in probation because of sentencing guidelines. Hoeme also says the way the state’s DUI law is written, a first time offense is a misdemeanor even when someone’s hurt as badly as Colby.
“It’s very upsetting and it should be upsetting to other people in the state of Kansas,” Matt Liston says. “The laws are too weak here.” He hopes state lawmakers will push for change.
by Brian Heap