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No prison time for DUI collision

By Times staff writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 18, 2000

DADE CITY -- A 24-year-old Land O'Lakes man who crossed the center line and slammed his truck head-on into an oncoming car last summer asked a judge for mercy Wednesday and accepted a sentence for drunken driving that kept him out of prison.

Jeffery A. Beckel, 24467 Painter Drive, had a blood-alcohol level nearly three times the point where the law assumes impairment as he drove east on State Road 54 near Daiquiri Lane about 3 a.m. on Aug. 15, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Authorities say he crossed the center line, striking 26-year-old Kimberly MacLean's 1990 Dodge.

Both MacLean and Beckel were airlifted to Tampa hospitals following the crash. MacLean suffered a broken collarbone and foot.

Prosecutor Manny Garcia told Circuit Judge Wayne Cobb that Beckel had a blood-alcohol level of 0.23, nearly three times the level of 0.08 the state uses to determine intoxication.

Beckel's attorney, Richard Blunt, told the judge his client made a mistake but was doing his best to make amends. Beckel had already paid back $6,000 of the $8,000 in restitution he owed and had completed substance abuse classes.

"We're basically on our knees here, judge," Blunt said. "Is putting a young man in prison for three years really the best way to handle this particular circumstance?"

Under state guidelines, Garcia said, Beckel faced 3 to 5 years in prison if convicted on the charge of felony driving under the influence of alcohol. He said the state would make no sentencing recommendation, prefering to leave the decision up to Cobb.

The judge sentenced Beckel to a year of house arrest and two years of probation. He will not be allowed to drink alcohol or enter any bar during his probation, Cobb said.

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