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Frenchtown man charged with felony DUI after high-speed crash

Frenchtown man charged with felony DUI after high-speed crash

  • Updated

A 37-year-old Frenchtown man was charged Thursday with felony DUI and criminal endangerment for allegedly causing a high-speed crash on Old Pulp Mill Road.

Donald W. Coffman was arrested on the drunken driving offense Wednesday evening near the intersection of Mullan Road, where charging records say he drove his pickup truck 80 mph over a raised bridge and collided with the back of a small passenger car. A preliminary breath test showed Coffman's blood alcohol concentration at the time was 0.156, nearly twice Montana's legal driving limit of 0.08. He admitted drinking three 16-ounce beers and said he was drunk.

The arrest comes less than two weeks after Coffman's conviction on a third DUI offense in Idaho, and just shy of his admittance into the Montana Chemical Dependency Center in Butte. MCDC is the only inpatient chemical dependency treatment center administered by the state, providing detoxification and other monitored treatment.

A public defender representing Coffman asked Missoula County Justice of the Peace John Odlin to release the man from jail on Sept. 12, when a bed at the treatment facility is scheduled to become available.

Instead, Odlin set Coffman's bail at $50,000 but agreed to have him transported to MCDC if and when a bed opens up; after he completes the treatment program, he'll be returned to the Missoula County Detention Facility.

"I believe you're right that it would do the community a lot of good for him to go to MCDC," Odlin said. "But I'm not ready to turn him loose. It doesn't seem like he's got control of his situation."

According to records filed in Missoula County Justice Court, the driver of a Geo Metro was approaching a stop sign at the intersection of Old Pulp Mill and Mullan roads, driving about 35 mph, when he was rear-ended.

A Montana Highway Patrol trooper who responded to the wreck spoke with Coffman, who said he'd been driving 40 mph when he came over the bridge, saw the other vehicle and could not stop. A witness to the crash said Coffman had passed him going 80 mph just prior to the collision, and Coffman eventually admitted he was driving 70 mph.

Nobody was seriously injured in the wreck.

Coffman failed all of the sobriety tests administered to him at the crash scene, records state. He was swaying, had slurred speech and glassy, bloodshot eyes, according to the trooper.

If he is released from jail on bond, Odlin ordered that Coffman be monitored on a SCRAM bracelet, an alcohol-detection device.

Coffman faces up to 13 months in the Montana State Prison, five years of probation and a $10,000 fine for the felony DUI offense, and an additional 10 years in prison for the felony criminal endangerment charge.

Reporter Tristan Scott can be reached at 523-5264 or at


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