State Rep. Phil Hermanson is scheduled to go on trial this week on charges of driving under the influence and failing to slow to avoid an accident that injured two women.
Hermanson, R-Wichita, was charged with DUI, potentially related to prescription medication, after he underwent a field sobriety test and refused a blood-alcohol content test, according to police and court records.
His trial is scheduled for Wednesday in Wichita Municipal Court.
Hermanson, who is serving his first term in the Statehouse, said he was shaken up in the Nov. 6 accident, but said he was not under the influence.
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He said he has watched a video of his arrest with his lawyer and saw "no evidence of impairment."
Because of the upcoming trial, he would not discuss whether he was using any medication at the time. He said he had been ill and spent some time hospitalized last year.
Hermanson, 45, said he refused the alcohol test because he had never expected to be in that situation and didn't fully understand the law.
"I'm a brand-new legislator," he said. "I had no idea you're guilty if you don't blow in it."
Under state law, refusal to take a blood-alcohol test triggers nearly automatic administrative penalties, including a one-year license suspension and an additional year of using an ignition-interlock device that prevents a car from starting until the driver blows a clean breath sample into it.
Hermanson was driving his blue 2008 Ford Mustang in a construction zone at 47th South and Broadway at about 11:50 a.m. when he rear-ended a white 2002 Ford Focus being driven by Kathy Spencer of Derby, according to police reports. Spencer was stopped at a red light.
Spencer, then 46, and her mother, Mary Sheppard, then 77, both suffered injuries and were taken to a hospital for X-rays and other tests.
The two women had had breakfast at a Denny's restaurant and were spending the day shopping at thrift stores, Spencer said.
She said they both went home after the hospital tests, which took about three hours.
Sheppard hit her head and had an arm injury. She said she has since recovered.
Spencer said she was recovering from back surgery at the time of the crash and continues to have some pain in her leg and between her shoulder blades.
"With my previous back injury, it's taken me a lot longer to heal," she said.
Spencer and her sister, Sharon Spangler, said Hermanson was wearing shorts, a T-shirt and socks, but no shoes.
"He just looked kind of out of it," said Spangler, who was called to the site to remove the car while her mother and sister were taken to the hospital. "He looked like hell."
Hermanson said his shoes were in the car, and he hadn't dressed up because he was just making a run to McDonald's, about a mile from his home.
"I went down to get something to eat," he said. "I wasn't really planning on getting into an accident."
He said the accident occurred when he glanced over at the restaurant looking for the driveway and didn't see Spencer's car stopped.
Mike Moore of Wichita and his wife, Tammy, were pulling out of the shopping center at the intersection when they saw the collision.
They both said Hermanson's car was going at a high speed in the 30-mph construction zone.
"My wife said, 'Is he going to stop?' and I said, 'I don't think so, he's going too fast,' " Mike Moore said. "Next thing I knew, he hit that white car. ... There were no brake lights or anything."
A third witness, a 17-year-old girl who could not be reached for comment, wrote in a witness statement, "The blue Mustang did not slow down to stop and smashed into the back of the people driving the white car."
Hermanson disputes those accounts. He said he hit the brakes so hard his foot almost went through the floorboard.
He also said he had a body shop evaluate his car and the technician said the damage was consistent with about a 25-mph crash.
Spangler said that when she arrived at the scene after the accident, the front of Hermanson's car was underneath her sister's vehicle. She said she was able to drive it a short distance, but the car was totaled because of frame damage.
She said she watched Hermanson's field sobriety test, which was conducted by police in the McDonald's parking lot.
"They had him do the walking thing," she said. "He didn't do so well. They put him in handcuffs and put him in the (police) car and took him away."
Hermanson was booked into the Sedgwick County Jail, records show. He said he contacted a lawyer and was released after about three hours in custody.
Effect on election?
Hermanson was elected to the Legislature in 2008. He defeated Democratic incumbent Terry McLachlan.
A fiscal and social conservative, he has filed for re-election and so far faces no challenges within the Republican Party.
Brandon Whipple, a 27-year-old substitute teacher for the Wichita school district, has filed to run as a Democrat in the 96th District, which includes southwest Wichita.
"My initial reaction is I'm appalled that someone whose job requires them to drive back and forth between Wichita and Topeka would choose to put our community at risk by getting behind the wheel under the influence," Whipple said.
Asked whether he thought it would affect the election, he said, "The voters will have to decide."