GRANTS, N.M. (KRE) - A semi truck driver who crossed the median on Interstate 40 and killed three people in an oncoming moving van has been charged with careless driving and faces a maximum of 90 days in jail if convicted.
According to witnesses to the Jan. 9 crash driver Ali Sokondo, 19, suddenly crossed the median on Interstate 40 near Grants right into the path of a moving van with three men aboard.
All three men died. They were from California and included a father and son.
The crash report shows that New Mexico State Police officers investigating the crash and prosecutors with the district attorney's office discussed getting a blood sample from Sokondo to see if he had drugs or alcohol in his system. They later determined they did not have probable cause.
State Police spokesperson Sgt. Emmanuel Gutierrez says that probable cause includes signs of intoxication or impairment.
"A lot of times it's hard because the person is not there (on scene) anymore," Gutierrez says. "They are at the hospital, and we have to send an officer there.
"By that time they have IVs in there, and it makes if difficult to detect signs of impairment."
District Attorney Lemuel Martinez says in this case a charge of careless driving was the appropriate charge given the evidence they had. The maximum penalty would be 90 days in jail for three lives.
"It seems like it's not that harsh, but that is what the Legislature has decided." says Martinez referring to a failed push by some lawmakers to toughen the penalties for careless driving to one year imprisonment.
That bill has now died in the Legislature twice. Two of the lawmakers behind the move say they will introduce it again in the next legislative session.
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