Crime & Courts

Lawmaker sentenced in DUI case

State Rep. Phil Hermanson said he had taken prescription medications for high blood pressure and never had any problems until he was in an accident last November.

Hermanson, R-Wichita, now has a conviction for driving under the influence of prescription drugs and will spend the next year on probation.

Wichita Municipal Judge Pro-Tem Gregory Keith also ordered Hermanson to pay a $500 fine and spend 48 hours in custody of the city's intervention program during a sentencing hearing Thursday afternoon.

"It's almost as scary," Keith said of the prescription drug charge. "Some of the prescription drugs pack quite a wallop. Lots of people take them but they'll think, 'I've got a prescription from my doctor, so it must be safe.' "

Les Hulnick, Hermanson's lawyer, said the Nov. 8 accident at 47th South and Broadway was the legislator's first adverse reaction to the medicine he had taken for some time.

"I've got clients who have taken prescription drugs for years and felt fine, then they have one bad reaction, and they're branded a criminal," Hulnick said.

"That's a bunch of crap. The law needs to be rewritten. This was unfortunate."

Hermanson, 45, will be subject to random drug and alcohol testing during his probation. He will not be allowed to consume alcohol, and if he breaks any laws or violates his probation, he faces six months in the county jail.

First-time DUI offenders also face a mandatory 48 hours in jail, but in Wichita they are allowed to spend it in the Wichita Intervention Program at a local motel.

Under the program, they check into a motel late Friday and spend two days attending sessions that demonstrate the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, including victim impact panels.

While in the program, participants cannot leave without facing further charges of escape from custody.

Hermanson, a Realtor, represents the 96th District. He faces a challenge in the Republican primary next month from former Sedgwick County Republican chairman Mark Gietzen.