Judge sets Breckenridge hit-and-run trial for March
A 24-year-old Breckenridge woman charged in a hit-and-run last December will go to trial this spring after turning down a plea bargain in May.
Hallie Southall Schmitt’s trial is scheduled from March 29 to April 1, as she faces charges of failure to remain at the scene of an accident resulting in serious bodily injury, a class-four felony, vehicular assault, a class-five felony, and failure to report an accident, a class-one misdemeanor. The plea agreement would have rendered the highest charge a class-five felony, possibly halving jail time.
“She may face a more onerous penalty should she suffer a conviction,” Fifth Judicial Judge Mark Thompson said.
During a hearing on Monday, Nov. 23, Schmitt’s defense attorney filed a motion to drop the class-four felony charge. He had discussed the possibility of the motion in a previous September hearing, postponing the trial, originally set for October.
“In Colorado, a person can be charged with that without ever being involved in the accident,” defense attorney Todd Barson said in September. “You could be convicted of leaving the scene of an accident when you didn’t even know there was even an accident.”
Fifth Judicial District Attorney Bruce Brown, who took on the case this month, disagreed with the motion.
“In our view, that is inconsistent with the state of the law,” he said. “There’s no knowledge required if you were ticketed for going over the speed limit or had too much to drink.”
Like a DUI or traffic ticket, he argued that leaving the scene of an accident would be a “strict liability offense,” meaning the prosecution need not prove “mens rea” or the defendant’s intention to commit the crime.
Additionally, Brown added that the evidence pointed to a “pretty violent impact.”
Breckenridge Police arrested Schmitt on Dec. 30, 2014, just four days after 23-year-old Laura Hamilton was hit by a vehicle and left seriously injured at the side of Airport Road.
Police say they matched damage to the front of Schmitt’s Toyota 4Runner limited edition V8 with debris from the accident scene.
A snowplow driver discovered Hamilton’s body in a snow bank that night, and she was transported to St. Anthony Summit Medical Center where she was treated for a major concussion, fractured femur and several other injuries.
Brown said the district attorney’s office was prepared for trial other than waiting on potential DNA evidence from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
“We want to go forward with or without it,” he said. “We just want to button up every possible avenue.”
Barson requested the district attorney’s office share medical records surrounding the accident, including critical-care information, as well as blood testing records that would include blood alcohol content. Schmitt was not present in court on Monday.
She will next appear in court for a pretrial conference on Feb. 29, at 3:15 p.m.
She is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in court.
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