Chris Soules, who came to be known as ‘Prince Farming‘ during his time on the US version of The Bachelor, faces up to five years in prison, after a judge rejected a last-ditch attempt to have charges dropped in a felony case against him.
Soules is charged with failure to remain at the scene of a fatal accident, after an incident in April of last year in which he rear-ended a farm tractor driven by his neighbour Kenneth Mosher while driving his pickup truck on a road in rural Iowa.
It is alleged that he called 911 and identified himself as the driver, performed CPR on Mosher and waited at the scene until emergency services arrived, but was driven home before police showed up. Mosher later died in hospital.
Soules was arrested in the early hours of the morning at his home in Arlington, 12 miles from the scene of the accident. Sheriff’s reports indicate that he initially refused to let officers into the house until they could show a search warrant.
In subsequent legal proceedings, his attorneys claimed that the charges against him violated his constitutional rights to be free from “unreasonable searches and seizures” and “avoid self-incrimination.” The relevant passage of the law reads:
“… a surviving driver shall promptly report the accident to law enforcement authorities, and shall immediately return to the scene of the accident or inform the law enforcement authorities where the surviving driver can be located.”
Soules’ lawyers argued that the requirement to stay at the scene, which is specific to Iowa law, is unconstitutional, and that he himself satisfied the intent of the law by contacting law enforcement and providing assistance to the victim, dong the “responsible” thing.
State prosecutors allege that Soules was seen purchasing alcohol at a convenience store on the afternoon of the accident, and allege that he deliberately left in order to:
“… obfuscate the immediate facts and circumstances surrounding the accident, including a determination of his level of intoxication and an explanation of the empty and partially consumed open alcoholic beverages located in and around his vehicle.”
They further argued that the intent of Iowa’s law is to address this very concern, saying:
“The state submits the legislature foresaw that drunk drivers could flee the scene of a fatal crash precisely because they wanted to escape and sober up before confronting law enforcement officers who may detect telltale signs of intoxication.”
If Chris Soules had been found to be legally drunk at the time of the accident, he would potentially be facing a charge of vehicular homicide, which carries a sentence of up to 25 years behind bars.
On Friday, judge Andrea Dyer ruled that Iowa’s requirement to remain at the scene of the accident does not constitute a “seizure” under either state or federal constitutions, and does not require a driver to divulge anything that would violate their rights or incriminate themselves.
Soules still has the option of appealing to the Iowa Supreme Court, but has not yet said if he plans to do so. His trial was supposed to commence on January 18, but a new start date is now to be determined.
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