A judge put aside the typical prison term and sentenced a Dakota County man to at least 120 days in jail for crashing his pickup truck while drunk and killing his partner after they dined together on Valentine’s Day.
Michael J. Serres, 53, was sentenced in Dakota County District Court last week after pleading guilty to criminal vehicular homicide in connection with the Feb. 14 rollover on Hwy. 50 that killed 49-year-old Terri Stephenson about a quarter-mile from their home in Hampton.
Judge Arlene Perkkio chose not to follow state sentencing guidelines and stayed a term of 4¾ years, explaining in a court filing that Serres has shown remorse and was agreeable to treatment for chemical dependency.
County Attorney James Backstrom said Wednesday that his office asked the judge to sentence Serres to a four-year prison term as called for in the state guidelines. Backstrom added that Stephenson’s family supported Serres being spared prison.
Serres’ jail sentence is scheduled to start on Feb. 14, 2020, the anniversary of the crash, followed by up to 10 years’ probation.
“Consequences being fulfilled on the anniversary of [a] crash” is fairly common in sentencings, said County Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Monica Jensen.
Terms of Serres’ probation require that he abstain from alcohol or illicit drugs, submit to random testing for substance use, remain law abiding and not possess firearms. Otherwise, prison time could be imposed.
Also, on each Valentine’s Day during his probation, Serres will serve 30 days in jail but with the possibility of that time being converted to work release and electronic home monitoring.
Even then, Jensen said, “these subsequent jail terms may be waived by probation if the defendant is in good standing” and abiding by the court’s probationary terms.
Serres admitted to having 10 to 12 drinks at a nearby dining spot before getting behind the wheel. The pickup ended up on its passenger side 10 to 20 feet from the highway. Snow had left the road in poor driving condition.
Serres refused to submit to a preliminary breath test at the scene, but while the officer was holding the device close to the driver’s face, it “registered the presence of alcohol,” the criminal complaint read.