According to the AJC, a 19-year-old Joshua S. Kim crashed in an off-duty Gwinnett County Sheriff's Deputy who was working at a Department of Transportation construction zone.
Deputy Justin Lunt was taken to Gwinnett Medical Center with what was described as non-life threatening injuries.
Kim was not only accused of being impaired, but he also admitted to “looking at his cell phone and changing music” at the time of the crash. This appears to be a class case of distracted driving.
He has been charged with multiple misdemeanor offenses that include DUI, Suspended License, Possession of Marijuana, Following Too Closely, and Failure To Use Due Care While on a Cellphone.
For those five charges, he is facing up to 60 months in jail. However, the newspaper fails to realize that more serious felony charges are possible.
If Deputy Lunt was seriously injured in any way, the charges could then also include Serious Injury By Vehicle, a felony that can result in a punishment of up to 15 years in prison. The charge of Serious Injury By Vehicle must have predicate offenses, and in this case the predicate offense would be either Reckless Driving or the DUI.
Even, though Deputy Lunt's injuries are described as “non-life threatening,” the definition of what is “serious” in Georgia includes disfiguration, any broken bone, scaring, or the temporary loss of the member.
As a result, it would not take a significant injury to result in Mr. Kim's charges being upgraded to felony status. Additionally, the fact that the victim is a police officer makes the situation even more serious.
Finally, the police do not ordinarily charge the felony offense until all of their ducks are in a row. The usual process is to arrest on the misdemeanors; then finish up the accident reconstruction; then gather all medical reports; then finally re-arrest the suspect on the more serious charges. That is why, in most serious injury by vehicle cases, an arrest for the felony comes weeks or months later. Mr. Kim will need a top-rated Gwinnett County DUI Attorney; on that there is little doubt. I certainly hope Deputy Lunt makes a speedy and full recovery.