Intoxicated driver sentenced to probation
A Caldwell County jury last week decided to offer an area man probation, rather than jail time, after he plead guilty to intoxication assault. The charges came after a near-fatal automobile accident in northern Caldwell County in 2003.
After a jury was selected and impaneled, Ronnie Knash decided to change his plea of not guilty to guilty to the charge of intoxication
assault and let the jury decide his punishment. Judge Todd Blomerth accepted the plea of guilty and found Knash guilty of intoxication assault, a third degree felony which carries a possible sentence of two to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000. Additionally, Knash was eligible to receive probation from the jury because he had never been convicted of a felony offense.
After hearing evidence of the facts of this offense and the defendant”s prior criminal history the jury returned a sentence of ten years probated. The jury heard testimony that on Jan. 4, 2003 Knash had consumed most of an 18-pack of beer before his girlfriend – also his victim – drove him to the convenience store at US 183 and FM 1185 in northern Caldwell County to buy cigarettes and more beer.
Knash took the keys away from his girlfriend upon leaving the store, got behind the wheel of his pickup and pulled out onto the highway into oncoming traffic. One northbound pickup swerved to miss Knash but the second pickup, also north bound in the outside lane, was not as fortunate, striking Knash”s pickup broadside on the passenger”s side. Knash”s pickup traveled across US 183 and was wrapped around a steel support post on the north side of FM 1185, pinning Knash and his passenger inside. The passenger was taken by Star Flight to Brackenridge Hospital near death where she spent more two than weeks in the hospital. She suffered numerous injuries including the loss of her spleen. Knash was also taken to Brackenridge where a blood test revealed his blood alcohol level to be .268, over three times the legal limit. Fortunately, only minor injuries were sustained by one of the four passengers in the second vehicle.
Judge Todd Blomerth assessed the term of probation at 10 years, ordered the defendant to serve 180 calendar days in the county jail as a condition of probation and determined that he be sentenced to the Substance Abuse Felony Punishment Facility, (SAFP) which lasts approximately six months, upon completion of the 180 days in jail. The jury had indicated its desire that the defendant be ordered to SAFP. The jury indicated that although the facts of the case were serious they felt the defendant deserved an opportunity to seek treatment for his problem. The jury also indicated they wanted to give him a short prison sentenced followed by probation, an option that does not exist under current state law.
Knash had received a prior DWI conviction in Caldwell County and was arrested for DWI in Bastrop County in 2005.