Sen. Torres Registered .21% in Blood-Alcohol Test, Police Say

TIMES STAFF WRITER

When Sen. Art Torres (D-Los Angeles) was arrested Sept. 6 on a drunk-driving charge, a breath test showed his blood-alcohol level at .21%--more than twice the legal standard, according to police testimony Friday.

The information surfaced at a Department of Motor Vehicles administrative hearing into whether Torres should have his license suspended. The DMV moved to suspend Torres' license, alleging that he had refused to complete blood-alcohol testing after he was stopped by a Sacramento police officer.

Testimony Friday indicated that Torres attempted to take the test three times, but it only gave one reading, the .21%. In order for that to be admitted in court, it must be corroborated by a second reading, according to Torres' lawyer. At issue is whether Torres made a good-faith effort to complete the tests.

Previously, police had said the lawmaker refused to take a field sobriety examination, "could not perform" a breath test and refused to take any other test.

On Friday, Sacramento Police Officer Darrin Reese, who arrested Torres, said that because Torres failed to properly complete a second breath test, police went ahead and booked the veteran lawmaker.

Clyde Blackmon, Torres' lawyer, maintained that Torres sought to take a field sobriety test when he was arrested and took three breath tests. After the hearing, Torres, 43, who last month acknowledged that he is an alcoholic, told reporters: "I didn't refuse to take the tests."

In sworn testimony, Torres said he "tried to comply as best as I could" but maintained there was a great deal of confusion over how he should take the breath test at the Sacramento County Jail.

"I knew the ramifications of not taking the test," Torres told Virginia Ring, a DMV hearing officer. Ring is expected to decide within the next month whether the department's order suspending Torres' license should be upheld.

In 1987, Torres was arrested for drunk driving when his car nearly crashed into a Sacramento police vehicle parked with its emergency lights flashing. He pleaded no contest, paid a fine and was placed on probation for three years. One condition of probation was that he not refuse to take any future chemical tests to determine his blood-alcohol level.

Besides the DMV proceedings, Torres faces a court case. Prosecutors have said that the customary punishment for a second drunk-driving conviction is a fine and penalties totaling $1,320, 10 days in jail that can be served on weekends and four years of probation.

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