Thursday, June 12, 2008

California DUI for County Supervisor - statement issued

El Dorado County supervisor issues statement after arrest for alleged California DUI

6 days after her California DUI arrest on suspicion of drunken driving, El Dorado County Supervisor Helen Baumann, left, has issued a brief, unsigned statement that said her California DUI lawyer advised her not to comment about the incident on Latrobe Road Friday night, when she reportedly crashed through a barbed wire fence and down an embankment.

California Highway Patrol investigators place the time of her solo crash at about 11:30 p.m. A 911 call came into the CHP switchboard about 11:40 p.m., said Officer Mike Schultz, CHP spokesman. A cruiser arrived about an hour later and found Baumann still in her damaged Toyota Avalon at the side of the road. Although she did not exhibit visible signs of crash trauma, Baumann was obviously ill and the CHP officer called for paramedics, Schultz said. The officer also noted that Baumann smelled of alcohol and she was slurring her speech.

She was placed under California DUI arrest and transported to Mercy Medical Center, Folsom, where a breath test was performed. The legal blood-alcohol level is 0.08 or less.

"Her breath test put her over the limit," said Schultz, who didn't release Baumann's exact blood-alcohol level.

"While there remain many unanswered questions and my attorney has advised me not to comment, I am extremely concerned and want to apologize for the strain and disruption the situation has caused our law enforcement and emergency services," Baumann said in a statement sent out by her office to local media outlets.

The incident Friday night occurred on Latrobe Road, south of Chaparral Drive, just over a mile south of U.S. Highway 50, Schultz said.

Investigators believe that Baumann, 56, drove off one side of the road, and through a fence down an embankment. Then she "looped around" going back up the embankment and across the road where she struck the other embankment, Schultz said.

No other vehicles were involved and she was evidently in the car by herself.

Schultz said Baumann was arrested on a misdemeanor charge and the decision to transport her to the hospital is standard procedure, Schultz said.

Baumann was not booked into El Dorado County Jail because the doctor who treated her in Folsom did not release her for booking. This also is common practice and a situation where the information is forwarded to the county district attorney for further action.

Any notion that the county supervisor received preferential treatment is "hogwash," Schultz said.

Because she is an elected official, District Attorney Vern Pierson may opt to refer the case to the state Attorney General's Office, Schultz said.

At 12:30 p.m. Thursday, Pierson had not yet returned a call for comment on the situation.

Baumann's assistant told the Bee that the supervisor was engaged in county budget deliberations today. The Board of Supervisors annually decides the budget for the El Dorado County District Attorney's office.

"As of today, the case has not been referred to us," said Abraham Arredondo, spokesman for the state Attorney General early Thursday afternoon.

It is still up to the local officials to determine if they have a conflict of interest. If the case is referred to state officials, they also will make a decision about pursuing it or sending it back to the local jurisdiction,according to California DUI lawyers.