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A law making it a second-degree felony to cause death or serious injury while driving with a measurable amount of drugs in one's system is unconstitutional, the Utah Court of Appeals has ruled, because the punishment is harsher than DUI and auto homicide statutes, where drivers are deemed to be incapacitated.
Accordingly, the appeals court sent the Thomas Randall Ainsworth's case back to the district court with instructions to enter his convictions as lesser third-degree felonies and re-sentence him at that level.
"... there does not appear to be any rational basis for punishing individuals who have 'any measurable amount' of controlled substance in their bodies more harshly than individuals who have an incapacitating amount of the substance in their bodies," wrote Appeals Court Judge Deno Himonas, referring to "the more culpable offenses" of automobile homicide and DUI with serious injury, which are third-degree felonies.
Therefore, the Measurable Amount Statute violates the uniform operation of laws provision of the Utah Constitution, Himonas wrote.
Ainsworth, now 59, is serving three consecutive one-to-15-year terms at the Utah State Prison in connection with a fatal 2011 Christmas Eve crash. During resentencing, he will face a maximum of up to five years in prison for each count.
On Dec. 24, 2011, Ainsworth was driving his Chevrolet Suburban west on 9000 South on Dec. 24, 2011, when he drove over a median near 1000 West and crashed head-on into another vehicle.
A passenger in the other car, 18-month-old Colum Pack, was killed; his 3-year-old brother, Finn, and the boys' parents, Ryan and Raquel Pack, were all severely injured.
Ainsworth told police he had dropped his cell phone on the floor and was reaching for it when he lost control of his SUV.
Following the crash, Ainsworth's blood tested positive for methamphetamine.
He was charged in 3rd District Court with three counts of driving with a measurable amount of a controlled substance and negligently causing death of serious bodily injury, each a second-degree felony.
Ainsworth asked the judge, who happened to be Himonas, to amend the charges to third-degree felonies. But Himonas denied the motion.
Ainsworth pleaded guilty as charged, but reserved the right to appeal the constitutionality of the statute.