Yakima County prosecutors are dropping vehicular homicide charges against a man they say ran over a toddler in 2017 while having more than the legal limit of marijuana in his system.
Yakima County Prosecuting Attorney Joe Brusic said Friday that while Larry Tyacke had more than 5 nanograms of marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient in his blood, an accident reconstruction expert retained by the defense could show that he was not impaired at the time of the incident. He said prosecutors would have had difficulty convincing a jury to convict.
There isn’t as much data to back up the 5 nanogram limit, as compared to the 0.08 blood-alcohol level for drunken driving, he said.
“We need more analysis of what 5 nanograms means in conjunction with 0.08 (standard for alcohol). If I were to bring the state toxicologist down, she cannot say whether or not it impairs people. It’s a major flaw in the law, in my opinion,” Brusic said.
Brusic said he chose to file the charges because he wanted to be “aggressive,” as well as the fact that it was a young child who was killed.
“The loss of this little girl’s life was emotionally horrific to this office,” Brusic said. “Clearly, I believe that had a bearing on the decision. I would have seriously considered charging it out with anyone’s death, but the death (of a child) was a factor.”
The charges were dismissed without prejudice, which means that prosecutors could refile the charges if additional evidence is found.
Brusic said he plans to discuss reforming the statute that defines marijuana intoxication with lawmakers and other prosecutors.
Tyacke was driving through the parking lot at the Sunnyside Walmart on March 8, 2017, when the girl ran out in front of his vehicle and was hit. While a Washington State Patrol drug-recognition expert indicated Tyacke did not appear intoxicated, Brusic said prosecutors based the decision to pursue vehicular homicide on the toxicology test results.
In court documents, Sunnyside police noted that Tyacke, 71, had stopped and was attending to the child when they arrived.
A toxicology report said Tyacke had a 7.01 nanograms of THC, marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient, in his system, court documents said.
Tyacke is not facing any other charges in the matter.