PolitiCal

State Sen. Ben Hueso avoids jail time in plea bargain

Sen. Hueso enters plea bargain reducing drunk driving charges to lesser misdemeanor, faces no jail time

State Sen. Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) on Thursday entered a plea bargain in which prosecutors lowered charges of drunk driving to a lesser misdemeanor, allowing him to avoid any possibility of jail time.

Hueso was sentenced to three years informal probation and must complete a six-week alcohol education class in addition to paying $1,100 in fines, according to his attorney, Megan Virga.

"He has taken responsibility for his actions," Virga said.

He is the second state senator to avoid jail time over criminal charges in recent months.

On Oct. 31, then-Sen. Roderick Wright reported to jail to serve a 90 day sentence for lying about living in his Senate district but was released within two hours because of jail overcrowding.

Hueso, who was reelected last month, initially faced drunk driving charges that could have resulted in a penalty of $1,000 and six months in jail, but they were dismissed after Hueso agreed to plead no contest to a “wet reckless” driving charge that does not include jail time. It is a lesser charge of reckless driving in which the term “wet” indicates that it is an alcohol-related driving offense.

Hueso was arrested Aug. 22 and charged with two counts of drunk driving after a California Highway Patrol officer spotted him driving the wrong way on a one-way street in a state car in Sacramento at 2:24 am.

The senator had attended a reception hosted by the California Latino Legislative Caucus earlier in the evening and a fellow legislator posted a photograph on Twitter showing Hueso with other senators at the Capitol, his shirt untucked and a drink in his hand.

The report by CHP Officer D.A. Martinez said Hueso initially denied he had had anything alcohol to drink.

“I asked Mr. Hueso if he had consumed any alcoholic beverages and he stated that he had not,” said the report, obtained by The Times after submiting a Public Records Act request.

The officer said he smelled a “distinct odor” of alcohol coming from the car, say that Heuso had red and watery eyes and was “dishelved.”

“On the floor of the backseat of the vehicle I observed a large white and blue ceramic container of tequila,” the officer wrote in the report. Hueso failed physical tests to determine whether he was impaired and later told them that he had consumed three glasses of wine six hours earlier. He was taken to a CHP station for a blood-alcohol test that registered 0.08%, the level for impaired driving.

The reduction in charge is routine in cases where the blood alcohol level is just above the limit, said Shelly Orio, a spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s Office.

Hueso issued a statement in August in which he apologized for the incident. "I am truly and profoundly sorry for the unacceptably poor personal judgment which I demonstrated last night," Hueso said at the time.

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