No Criminal Charges in Crash

By Clarence Williams
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 19, 2008

A 19-year-old Maryland woman will not face criminal charges for falling asleep behind the wheel and sparking a fatal three-vehicle crash on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge this summer, prosecutors announced yesterday.

Queen Anne's County State's Attorney Frank M. Kratovil Jr. said his office found that Candy Lynn Baldwin was not "grossly negligent" when her Chevrolet Camaro drifted into another lane and sideswiped a tractor-trailer Aug. 10.

Investigators found that the teenager had consumed alcohol earlier in the day, but at the time of the crash her blood-alcohol level was 0.03, well below the legal limit, Kratovil said. "The question is whether falling asleep and drifting across the line is criminal, and the answer to that is no," he said.

The collision forced the truck into concrete barriers, which gave way under the impact. The truck plunged into the bay, killing the driver, John R. Short, 57, of Willards, Md.

Baldwin will face various motor vehicle violations, including negligent driving, violating a license restriction and failing to drive to the right of the center line, Kratovil said. Drinking would be a violation of her license restrictions because she is underage.

The three-car collision caused traffic backups for 10 miles on either side of the bridge, frustrating hundreds of motorists on the popular beach route.

"Not every fatal accident is a criminal offense," Kratovil said. "They are tragic, but [charges] are based on the act, not the consequences of it."

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