By Noe Herrera
SANTA MARIA, CA – A substitute judge in the Santa Barbara County Courthouse here this week accepted a misdemeanor plea by an alleged drunk driver with a blood alcohol content level of .38, nearly five times the legal limit.
Before sentencing, the judge told the man, “You are lucky to be alive.”
*JIM’s charges were enhanced because he had been charged for DUI once before. *(NOTE: “JIM” is not his real name. The Vanguard does not usually use the true names of those accused if the charge is a misdemeanor.)
Again, JIM’s actual blood alcohol content level at the time of his arrest was .38, almost five times greater than the legal limit and near the lethal dosage. JIM pleaded guilty after considering a plea bargain.
The judge said, “I’m filling in here today as a judge and I want to tell you this is one of the highest blood alcohol levels I’ve ever seen.
“You are lucky to be alive,” continued the judge, adding, “And because of that, I want you to understand that you need to take the conditions of your probation very seriously.”
The judge then said, “You are going to need to follow an 18-month program. That is a big commitment. It is going to be a lot of work. Are you willing to do that?”
JIM responded, “Yes,” and was placed on probation for three years instead of the normal 200 days in jail. He must serve 45 days in the county jail, or sheriff’s work project with 200 days suspended.
The judge explained, “If you violate the terms of your probation, you will serve those 200 days. You must report to the Central Coast Headway Alcohol Program in Santa Maria within three days of your release to complete your 18 month program. You shall not have any alcohol or similar violations. Do not use intoxicating liquor of any kind, no beer, no wine, to excess.”
Adding, “In fact, you are not to drink at all for 36 months. You must submit to search and seizure day and night, with or without probable cause. You must pay fines of $1,690 plus $175 through the Santa Maria Court Clerk’s Office.”
JIM has an alternative option to his 45-day sentence. He can apply for the Sheriff Work Alternative Program (SWAP) which replaces jail time for community service hours. Eight hours of community service is equivalent to one day of jail time.