Former State Energy Czar May Face Jail


Former state Energy Commissioner Charles Imbrecht admitted Monday to violating his probation on a drunk-driving conviction and could face up to a year in jail.

But Imbrecht’s attorney said he plans to ask a judge at a sentencing hearing later this week to consider the five months his client will have spent at an alcohol treatment facility in Sacramento and waive any possible jail time. The program concludes Feb. 15.

“I think it would be seriously counterproductive after what he has done,” said attorney Bill Tomasi of Westlake Village. “Since this violation he has really been committed to sobriety.”


Imbrecht, 48, enrolled himself in a residential alcohol treatment program in early September after being arrested for violating the terms of his probation stemming from a December 1996 drunk-driving arrest.

Authorities said Imbrecht had alcohol on his breath when they visited him at his parents’ home in Ventura over the Labor Day holiday. Tomasi contends the violation is not serious enough to warrant jail time.

“As far as violations go, this one is not that aggravated,” he said. Municipal Judge Steven Hintz will take up the matter Friday.

Imbrecht, a former Ventura resident who now lives in Sacramento, was not in court Monday when his attorney acknowledged the probation violation, and has never appeared in person to face the alcohol-related charges.

Imbrecht was arrested Dec. 7, 1996, after Ventura County sheriff’s deputies saw his car weaving on a city street and smelled alcohol on his breath. They also found marijuana in his pocket.

A blood sample taken at a local hospital showed Imbrecht’s blood-alcohol level to be 0.33--four times the legal limit for driving, authorities said.


Imbrecht, a lawyer, resigned as chairman of the California Energy Commission a month later, after nearly 14 years in the position. At the same time, Ventura County prosecutors filed misdemeanor charges against him of driving under the influence of alcohol, driving while having a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or higher and possessing marijuana in a car.

Imbrecht pleaded guilty to the charges and served a month in jail. He was also placed on five years’ probation, the terms of which require that he not drink or possess any alcoholic beverages. He violated those terms by being caught purchasing alcohol in April last year, and later by having alcohol on his breath, Tomasi said.

The alcohol-related arrests were not the first for Imbrecht. According to court records, the former energy czar was sentenced in 1995 to three years’ probation and two days in jail after being arrested by Grass Valley police in Nevada County, northeast of Sacramento. He was also ordered to attend a class on the dangers of drinking and driving.

Before being picked to head the state’s Energy Commission, Imbrecht served as a member of the state Assembly from 1976 to 1982, representing a portion of Ventura County.