Driving lesson

22-year-old man avoids jail after driving drunk, seriously injuring passengers in Spokane Valley crash

A 22-year-old avoided additional jail time after driving drunk and crashing into a tree, seriously injuring two of his passengers, in December in the Spokane Valley.

Derek T. Wickham pleaded guilty to two counts of assault while driving Wednesday in Spokane County Superior Court.

Judge Tony Hazel sentenced Wickham to one year in community custody, giving him credit for the day in jail he served. The sentence was recommended by the prosecution and the defence.

“I hope this is a lesson for you and it’s a mistake you won’t repeat later in life,” Hazel said.

Wickham was driving a Subaru Impreza around 6:30 a.m. Dec. 7 on North Park Road when he lost control on the icy road and crashed into a tree, according to court documents and the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

There were five young adults in the car, two of them seriously injured, according to documents. One of the passengers, a 19-year-old woman, suffered a dislocated hip and another passenger, a 20-year-old man, suffered a broken rib.

Spokane County Assistant District Attorney Sam Fitterer told the court on Wednesday that one of the passengers broke his femur and another passenger suffered a concussion as a result of the accident. He said the two were recovering well.

Wickham’s blood alcohol level at 7:27 a.m. that day was measured at .154, nearly double the legal limit of .08 in Washington.

“Fortunately, no one died in this incident,” Fitterer said. “We really hope this is a wake-up call for Mr Wickham.”

None of the seriously injured passengers were present on Wednesday, but Fitterer said they agreed with the sentencing recommendation.

Kyle Zeller, Wickham’s attorney, said his client took responsibility for the crash.

“I really don’t think he’ll be before your honor again,” Zeller said.

Wickham declined to address the court.

The maximum penalty for assault while driving a vehicle, a Class B felony in Washington, is 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

Wickham faced four to 12 months incarceration under the standard sentencing range, followed by a year in the community for each count of assault while driving a vehicle, but Hazel granted him a derogation for the first time. Under the waiver, which applies to people who have never been convicted of a crime, Hazel said he could order up to 90 days in jail and up to a year in police custody in the community.

Wickham’s driver’s license will be suspended for a period determined by the Washington State Licensing Department. Hazel ordered an evaluation and treatment for substance abuse. Zeller said Wickham was undergoing counseling and treatment. The refund is to be determined.