On Thursday, October 2, 2014, JAMES C. STAUDACHER, JR., d/o/b 5-08-1970, of Branson, pleaded guilty to the class B felony of DWI and was sentenced to ten (10) years in the Missouri Department of Corrections. Senior Judge Carr Woods, acting as Taney County Circuit Court Judge, sentenced Staudacher pursuant to a plea agreement between the Taney County Prosecutor’s Office and Staudacher’s lawyer.
Branson Police Officer Joseph Edwards was on routine patrol of Highway 76 during Branson’s annual cruise event on August 11, 2013, when he observed a passenger car accelerating and causing its tires to break traction with the pavement. Edwards and another Branson officer tried to initiate a traffic stop on the car, and the driver of the car did not immediately stop for the officers. Once the driver stopped the car in a parking lot, Officer Edwards made contact with the driver, Staudacher, and immediately noticed a strong odor of intoxicants. A bottle of bourbon was found in Staudacher’s car, and Staudacher refused the standard field sobriety tests, though told officers he would consent to a breath sample. Staudacher was arrested for suspicion of DWI and taken to the Branson Police Department, where his blood alcohol content was shown by breath sample to be 0.196% – over twice the level of legal intoxication.
Driving while intoxicated, as a first offense, is normally a class B misdemeanor, and handled by the Associate Circuit Courts. However, because Staudacher had four or more intoxication-related traffic convictions – from various courts in Stone County and Taney County – he was charged with a class B felony for being a “chronic” D.W.I. offender. The range of punishment for a class B felony is not less than five (5) years in prison and not more than fifteen (15) years in prison. Staudacher had been in custody on another case at the time of his guilty plea.