A fatal traffic accident in Des Moines last week that killed a 10-year-old boy has raised questions about a potential loophole in Iowa law. Des Moines Police Lieutenant William Jones say 18-year-old Donald Anderson the third has been charged with failing to render aid and leaving the scene of an accident after his car struck and killed Eric Nerison as the boy attempted to cross a Des Moines street. Jones say officers found marjuana at Anderson’s home when they went to arrest him and added a drug possession charge — but since they found him six hours after the accident — Anderson was not tested to see if the marijuana might’ve impaired his ability to drive. He says the physical evidence at the scene, and witness statements did not indicate excessive speed or impairment, and the boy’s injuries were consistent with low-speed impact. If officers had been able to link the marijuana to the accident, Jones says Anderson would also have faced a felony manslaughter charged. The accident also created some controversy because it happened on a street where lights had been turned off by the city to save money. Jones says they can’t say if that had any impact on the accident. He says the evidence at the scene does not indicate anything to say the light being out was or was not a contributing factor. Des Moines Police Chief William McCarthy says there does appear to be a loophole in the law that would make someone leave the scene of an accident if they’re impaired so they couldn’t be tested for drugs. But, he says people more often flee if it’s a property damage accident and usually stop if someone has been injured. The chief would not speculate as to whether Anderson was impaired at the time of the accident. He says they have to go by the evidence and says that’s difficult enought to reconstruct. But he says the investigators have to deal with the circumstances at the time. McCarthy says police organizations have raised the issue before, saying there needs to be other options between the misdemeanor drug possession charge — which carries one year in jail — and the felony manslaughter charge — which could result in a 25-year prison sentence. He says it seems that here ought to be something in the middle so you’re not dealing with extremes. He says there have been serious charges filed and they open up serious consequences, and open the door for serious civil action, but he says they don’t seem to address the criminal side of what happened. Either way, McCarthy says Anderson made things worse by leaving the scene. He says this was an innocent little kid with a lot of life left to go, and the driver compounded everything for him and the child’s by fleeing. McCarthy says that Nerison would not have lived had Anderson stopped to render aid. McCarthy says police will try to open discussion again this year to make a change in the law.
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