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Paramedic who lost leg in DUI crash reflects on lenient sentence for driver

Jody Heglar was sentenced to 15 years for driving under the influence and driving with a suspended license, which was reduced to 14 months of time served and probation

By EMS1 Staff

FLORENCE COUNTY, S.C. — A paramedic who lost her leg in a car crash is speaking out about the lenient sentence for the driver who was charged with a DUI and driving on a suspended license.

Jody Heglar was sentenced to 15 years for causing the March 2016 crash that injured Tessie Smith. However, according to his attorney, Heglar’s sentence was suspended, giving him credit for a 14-month jail stint, and five years’ probation.

WMBF News reported that blood tests showed Heglar was not under the influence of alcohol or hard drugs, only Topamax, a nerve pain medication and anticonvulsant.

Howe Springs Fire Chief William Dillon, a friend of Smith’s, was shocked and disheartened by the sentence.

“The courts (have) decided that the careless act of someone who ended someone’s (sic) life (because her career was her life), got a reduced sentence of just over a year,” Dillon wrote in a Facebook post. “It took us longer to build her a house so she could live with her family than his sentence.”

There is no deterrent for crimes when light sentences are handed out, he continued.

“I am very disappointed with the judicial system in Florence County,” Dillon wrote. “This is why no one is scared to drive drunk or get high or break any law for that matter. This paramedic was responding to someone in need and due to the irresponsibility of someone else, lives were changed forever.”

For Smith, though she said the first two years after the accident were hard, she works to put it behind her.

“When I have my bad days, yeah, he’s at the center of my anger, but I don’t have those very often anymore,” she said.