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Idaho Court of Appeals overturns driver’s ‘absurd’ conviction in slide-off

It was an icy morning in 2009 when Richard W. Wright slid off a North Idaho road and hit a speed limit sign. But the retired Florida police officer and then-Kootenai County coffee shop owner didn’t expect to be charged with the misdemeanor crime of leaving the scene of an accident for proceeding on to work.

Wright, who represented himself in court, received a withheld judgment, paid a $200 fine, served two days on a county work program and had his license suspended for a year – all for an accident that only damaged a piece of plastic door molding on his own car and a roadside sign that cost about $200 to fix; Wright paid for that. Today, the Idaho Court of Appeals overturned Wright’s conviction, saying the leaving-the-scene crime applies to multi-car accidents, requiring drivers not to leave before exchanging information – not to a single car bumping into a sign.

Judge Karen Lansing, writing for a unanimous court, wrote, “In the case of a single-car accident, without injuries to a third party, there is no other person to whom the driver could provide information at the scene. A requirement that a driver stop and remain at the scene absent any person with whom to exchange information would be absurd.”

Wright’s attorney, Richard Kuck of Coeur d’Alene, said, “Given the way this all went down, I hope that means that people like Mr. Wright won’t be charged with this offense in single-vehicle collisions again. It’s good to have that cleaned up in Idaho.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.