Pubdate: Sat, 17 Dec 2005
Source: Waukesha Freeman (WI)
Copyright: 2005 The Waukesha Freeman
Author: Brian Huber
Bookmark: (Cannabis and Driving)


First Homicide Case In County Under New Drugged Driving Law

WAUKESHA - A Lake Geneva man could face 37 years in prison after he
allegedly had marijuana in his system during a fatal crash in Muskego
last September.

Brent Ehret, 21, was charged Friday with one count of vehicular
homicide with a controlled substance in his blood and one count of
causing great bodily harm by use of a vehicle with a controlled
substance in his blood. He was also charged with possession of
marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

District Attorney Paul Bucher said Friday that the case was the first
homicide case in the county to incorporate a new state law against
drugged driving. About a year ago, the Legislature enacted a law
making it illegal for anyone to drive with any detectable amount of
controlled substances in his or her system.

While the county has prosecuted several cases of people driving with
drugs in their system, this case represents the first homicide under
similar alleged circumstances, Bucher said.

According to the criminal complaint in the case, Ehret was in the
southbound lanes of Racine Avenue en route to Lake Geneva on Sept. 2
when a pickup truck in front of him slowed to enter a driveway. Ehret
said, "I did not have time to stop," and he swerved into the oncoming
lane, striking a car.

The driver of that car, Mary Knurr, suffered a compound fracture of
her right foot. Her passenger and mother, Genevieve Michalski, 80, was
pronounced dead on arrival at a hospital. She died of multiple
injuries consistent with a crash, the complaint said.

The complaint added that there were nearly 124 feet of skid marks from
Ehret's car to the point that Knurr's car was struck.

Investigators searching Ehret's car found a partially consumed bottle
of alcohol, but Ehret's blood-alcohol level was zero. But an analysis
of his blood showed the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol, the active
ingredient in marijuana, the complaint said.

Ehret denied using marijuana that day but said he had smoked it the
night prior to the crash. A pipe and small amount of marijuana were
found in the car. Ehret was ordered to appear in court Jan. 9.

Bucher said the state law against drugged driving has been challenged
in the courts and upheld as being constitutional.

"The nice thing about this law is you don't need to prove (someone) is
under the influence," he said, adding that Ehret enjoys a presumption
of innocence until proven otherwise. "You shouldn't be driving under
the influence of a controlled substance, period."

Bucher added similar cases are waiting in the wings in his office. He
said between drugged-driving and drunken-driving cases, "it's been a
very busy year" for his office, particularly since it lost three
prosecutors under state budget cuts.
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