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Nichols sentenced to 10 years for violation of release conditions

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POLSON — An Elmo woman had a six-year deferred sentence for felony criminal endangerment revoked at District Court in Polson Dec. 16 and turned into a 10-year term in the Montana State Women’s prison for continued violations of her release conditions

Rachel Rae Nichols, 50, was initially given the deferred sentence plus 15 days in the Lake County jail on one count of felony criminal endangerment. The charge stems from a drunk driving crash July 29, 2018.

According to court records, Nichols was traveling in the southbound lane of U. S. Highway 93 near mile marker 78 when her vehicle went into the ditch on the right side of the road. The vehicle came back onto the roadway into the northbound lane and into the left side ditch before returning to the northbound lane and colliding with a northbound car. The occupant of the northbound car went to check on Nichols and could smell alcohol on her and Nichols appeared intoxicated.

Nichols admitted to responding law enforcement officers that she had consumed Budweiser and stated, “I am drunk.”

In a separate matter, Nichols was committed in District Court at Polson Dec. 16 to the Montana Department of Corrections for a total two years to be followed by five years’ supervised release. She was also ordered to pay a fine of $5,000 on felony charges of DUI and criminal endangerment.

According to court records, on Oct. 8, 2020, a motorist traveling on U. S. Highway 93 reported to law enforcement that a Buick had just hit his car and fled northbound. The reporting party followed the Buick at speeds reaching up to 80 MPH and allegedly witnessed the Buick almost hit another vehicle on Jette Hill north of Polson. Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Jeremy Lee intercepted the Buick a short time later and was able to make a traffic stop on it. Nichols was identified as the driver. She refused to provide a preliminary breath test or conduct any field sobriety tests. A search warrant was obtained for a blood draw. An analysis of the blood showed the alcohol content at .220.

Nichols was also ordered to pay restitution of $2,261.51, the remaining balance of restitution ordered in the 2018 case, and restitution of $7,499.99 in the 2020 case. That is in addition to a fee of $800 for the cost of a public defender in each case.

Judge Deborah “Kim” Christopher gave Nichols credit for having already served a total 751 days in jail.

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