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Minnesota trooper pleads to charge in drunken accident

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WILLMAR -- The off-duty Minnesota State Patrol trooper accused of driving while impaired, texting and causing an injury crash in April near Litchfield pleaded guilty Tuesday to a felony charge of criminal vehicular operation.

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Scott Charles Urdahl, 40, of Darwin, entered the plea in Meeker County District Court. Under a plea agreement, another felony for criminal vehicular operation will be dismissed.

The terms of the agreement also stipulate that he will serve no more than 60 days in jail, and that he will pay restitution to the victim and submit to a chemical health evaluation and follow its recommendations, according to David Hunt, the Ramsey County Assistant County Attorney prosecuting the case. Ramsey County officials are prosecuting the case at the request of Meeker County officials.

Urdahl will be sentenced Oct. 21.

According to the criminal complaint and information from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Urdahl was arrested for driving while impaired after the crash, which happened around 9:30 p.m. April 6 along U.S. Highway 12 in Darwin Township, about two miles east of Litchfield. He admitted that he was texting when his vehicle crossed the center line of the highway.

Urdahl was driving a personal vehicle, a Chevy Silverado, westbound and crossed over the centerline and collided with an eastbound vehicle, a Buick Century driven by Carrie Nickel, 57, of Litchfield. She was treated at Meeker Memorial Hospital for cuts to her head and finger and for chest pain and was released.

According to the criminal complaint, Nickel and a witness said that Urdahl's vehicle crossed into the eastbound lane and struck the oncoming vehicle. Another State Patrol trooper responding to the crash noticed Urdahl exhibited signs of alcohol consumption and the responding trooper administered field sobriety tests. A preliminary breath test showed a blood-alcohol level of 0.112 percent.

The threshold for DWI in Minnesota is 0.08 percent. A blood sample was also taken from Urdahl at Meeker Memorial Hospital. That blood sample revealed a blood-alcohol level of 0.14, according to Hunt.

Urdahl admitted to drinking six drinks at the American Legion, that he felt the effects of the alcohol and that it had affected his ability to drive.

According to the Department of Public Safety, Urdahl has served as a state trooper since May 1998. In April, Department of Public Safety officials placed him on unpaid status pending the outcome of a criminal and internal investigation.

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