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May 27, 2011

Lesser fine for driver who hit bicyclist was blunder

The Baltimore woman whose driving errors led to a crash that left bicyclist Nathan Krasnopoler in a coma with possibly permanent brain injuries has resolved the traffic charges against her by paying  $220  – about half the amount she would have been fined if the Baltimore police had not erred in writing the tickets.

Jeannette Marie Walke, 83, pleaded guilty May 11 to negligent driving and failure to yield tight-of-way to a bicyclist in a designated lane. There was no indication in court records that she chose to appear in court. Such charges can be resolved by sending in a standard fine by mail.

Nathan Krasnopoler, a Johns Hopkins University student, collided with Walke's car Feb. 26 when she turned in front of him on University Drive near the Homewood Campus. According to his family, he retains brain stem function but is not expected to regain consciousness. The Krasnopolers have filed a $10 million lawsuit against Walke.

Walke could have been fined $400 had not the police officer who wrote the tickets blundered.

The  negligent driving fine was assessed at $140 rather than the $280 allowed under state law for cases involving a crash. On the failure-to-yield charge, she was fined $80 rather than the $120 she could have been assessed for an offense that contributed to an accident.

Terri Bolling, a spokesman for the District Courts of Maryland, said the officer wrote in the higher amounts but failed to check off the boxes indicating the charges involved a case that led to an accident and personal injury.

Bolling said that when the boxes are not checked, the fines default to the lower, pre-set amounts. She said the staff that enters the data into the court’s electronic system is not permitted to check the boxes or correct the amounts because the tickets are legal charging documents.

The police error comes after the department acknowledged mishandling the case up front by initially saying no charges would be brought against the driver. After a public outcry led by bicycle advocates, the police conducted a more thorough investigation and the State’s Attorney’s Office decided to charge Walke with the two traffic offenses.

Andrew G. Slutkin, the Krasnopoler family attorney who filed the civil suit, said he was surprised to learn that Walke had been charged the lesser fines. He said that while the family didn’t want to see the driver jailed, they believed it was important that she be charged because they felt she was “legally and morally responsible for the collision.”

“The family believes the fine should be the maximum available under the law,” Slutkin said. “If anyone deserves a break, it’s not this defendant.”

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:25 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: On the roads


Here's a golden opportunity for the police department to do something right: tell us what is being done to discipline the officer who screwed up.

I recall about 10 years ago a dumptruck driver ran the redlight at Ridgely/404 and killed a man. Got fined $57.00.
In Cecil county drunk driving is not even jail time. It is the Official County Sport!

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About Michael Dresser
Michael Dresser has been an editor, reporter and columnist with The Sun longer than Baltimore's had a subway. He's covered retailing, telecommunications, state politics and wine. Since 2004, he's been The Sun's transportation writer. He lives in Ellicott City with his wife and travel companion, Cindy.

His Getting There column appears on Mondays. Mike's blog will be a forum for all who are interested in highways, transit and other transportation issues affecting Baltimore, Maryland and the region.

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