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Man could face jail time, up to $5,000 fine for passing stopped school bus in Putnam County

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PUTNAM COUNTY, Ind. -- A Clay County man could face up to a year in jail and up to a $5,000 fine after passing a stopped school bus that had its stop arm out.

David Harris, 34, was charged with a misdemeanor. The Putnam County Sheriff's Department said he is the first person in the county to face this consequence after a new law took effect in July.

Senate Bill 2 signed into law this year says courts can suspend your license if you commit a school bus stop arm infraction. You could also face time in jail and a $5,000 fine. The penalties became tougher tougher after this law went into effect in.

Deputies said a video on the school bus shows Harris driving past the stopped school bus coming within a few feet of the open bus door.

Court documents say the bus driver displayed the amber caution lights for 13 seconds before coming to a complete stop and extending the stop arm. Deputies said the stop arm was extended for about 7 seconds.

The sheriff's department said the bus driver placed her arm across the bus aisle to stop a child from exiting the bus as Harris' vehicle approached the open door.

Deputies said Harris endangered the safety of the child. There were 12 kids on the school bus at the time.

A few days later, court documents say Harris told a deputy he messed up. He said he took his eyes off the road for a second after dropping his cigarette lighter. Harris claims he swerved to keep from hitting the bus.

"You do not want to think about what’s the worse that can happen," said Deputy Scott Ducker.

The case is now on the desk of Putnam County Prosecutor Tim Bookwalter. He could not talk about the case on Wednesday.

Still, he said it is unlikely a person will go to jail for committing this crime.

"We have enough serious crimes. Are you really going to get your point across by putting somebody in jail?" he said. "But you’ve got community corrections, you’ve got probation, you’ve got your license could be suspended. There's all sorts of tools a judge has in his tool box."

Law enforcement is crediting this bus driver for paying attention and acting so quickly.

Harris was not taken into custody. He has a hearing in November.

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