By Jared Ritz
A Box Elder woman pleaded guilty today to a charge of negligent vehicular assault.
Melissa Moran, 27, admitted that she had a blood alcohol content of 0.12, which is above the legal limit of 0.10, and that she was at fault in a collision that injured two people in another car.
One of those injured, Sarah Parisian, a 71-year-old lifelong Box Elder resident, died the next day. Prosecutors said the crash contributed to her death.
Moran will be sentenced Aug. 5 in District Court. The plea agreement calls for a three-year deferred sentence. The maximum penalty is 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Moran was visibly pregnant, and told District Court Judge John Warner that she is due in late October or early November.
Moran fell asleep at the wheel early on Nov. 17 on U.S. Highway 87. Her vehicle drifted into the oncoming lane and struck the van in which Parisian was a passenger, prosecutors said.
Earlier that morning, Moran was a passenger in her own vehicle when it was pulled over by Hill County sheriff's deputies. After arresting the driver, 38-year-old Norman Ragels, on a charge of driving under the influence, deputies cleared her to drive, according to Moran's attorney, Carl White.
A deputy had Moran walk in a straight line and concluded she was not impaired.
Based on that, White argued at an earlier hearing that deputies had no legal right to test her blood alcohol level after the crash and asked the judge to throw out that evidence.
Warner denied White's request. He said there was probable cause for law enforcement officers to take a blood sample after the crash because several officers detected an odor of alcohol on Moran.
She also had ample time to consume alcohol after the first traffic stop and before the crash, Warner said.
A considerable amount of barbed wire found tangled around the rear axle of her Chrysler LeBaron also was cause to obtain a blood sample, the judge ruled. The barbed wire was not on her vehicle during the earlier traffic stop.
Parisian was being driven to Northern Montana Hospital for kidney dialysis treatment when the crash occurred.