Written by Devon Boen
Jason Pautz, a 41-year-old man from Kalispell with three previous convictions for driving under the influence stretching over 24 years, was in district court Jan. 16. He faces felony charges of driving under the influence (fourth or subsequent offense) and criminal endangerment, and misdemeanor charges of obstructing a peace officer, fleeing from or eluding a peace officer, reckless driving, driving with a suspended driver’s license and operating a motor vehicle without insurance.
Court documents said the fiasco allegedly began for Pautz on Dec. 10 when Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Baker attempted to enact a traffic stop on U.S. Hwy. 2 by mile marker 661 east of Culbertson when Pautz drove past him. Pautz was going 84 mph according to Baker’s radar.
According to the report, Pautz did not pull over. He continued to drive and turned into an oil well site where he turned off his headlights.
The report said Baker turned into the site and located the vehicle on the east side. At that time, Pautz left the site and returned to U.S. Hwy. 2 and was travelling at speeds of up to 100 mph.
Documents said the chase continued at high speeds until Pautz allegedly slammed on his breaks west of Culbertson, forcing Baker to slam on his breaks to avoid a collision. When Baker came to a stop, Pautz gained speed again. Baker said he received notification at that time that Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Deputy Vernon First was deploying stop sticks at mile marker 635 and deputy Patrick O’Connor was at mile marker 633 ready to assist.
It said Pautz drove over the stop sticks and his vehicle slowly stopped moving after the tires went flat. Law enforcement took him into custody and allegedly smelled alcohol on his breath and also found an empty beer bottle near the driver’s seat.
The report stated Pautz allegedly exhibited signs of intoxication but refused a breath or blood test. O’Connor applied for a telephonic search warrant from Roosevelt County Justice of the Peace Traci Harada that would require Pautz to give a blood sample, which was granted.
Pautz was incarcerated in the Roosevelt County Detention Center and, upon further investigation, law enforcement discovered he had previous DUI convictions. His first conviction was in 1988 in Columbia Falls, the second was in 1992 in Lake County and the third was in 1996 in Umatilla, Ore. A DUI charge is a misdemeanor until it is the fourth or subsequent charge. This DUI charge marks Pautz’s fourth, making it a felony.
If found guilty of the felony DUI charge, Pautz faces a maximum penalty of 13 months in a treatment facility, five years in the Department of Corrections and a $10,000 fine. Criminal endangerment carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.
Pautz pleaded not guilty to all charges except driving with a suspended license, to which he pleaded guilty. He will appear in court again on Jan. 30 for an omnibus hearing and has a trial date set for March 14.