Woman benefits from new DUI law

Douglas County tested the state's new DUI law Monday in the case of a South Lake Tahoe woman who avoided prison by electing up to five years of substance abuse treatment and six months of house arrest.

Lisa Beth Thomas, 45, pleaded guilty to her third offense of driving under the influence. Prior to July 1, the third conviction mandated at least one year in Nevada State Prison.

Under new legislation, sentencing is deferred for up to five years to prove that Thomas keeps all conditions of her probation including no drugs or alcohol, six months of house arrest, a 3-5 year treatment program, random search and seizure for drugs and alcohol, and installation of equipment in any motor vehicle she operates to indicate whether she has been drinking.

Thomas must pay for all the programs under the new law.

Thomas was arrested in June 2006 for the offense and already has undergone inpatient treatment, house arrest and has been attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings on a regular basis.

District Judge Michael Gibbons set a review hearing for Aug. 10, 2009, to determine if she is meeting the terms of the sentence deferral.

The district attorney's office agreed to the election of treatment.

Under the new law, the prosecution may request a hearing before the judge if they have concerns about the election of treatment.

"It's ironic," Gibbons said. "The Legislature did away with this law a few years ago and said everybody goes to prison with the third DUI. Now, it's back to where it was. I don't know if it's because prison is overcrowded or if it's an effort to rehabilitate because so many go back to drinking."

Thomas said she was grateful for the opportunity.

"In the last 15 months, I got my life turned around," she said. "I did have a career, a beautiful house and a beautiful vehicle. I didn't think I could be an alcoholic."

Gibbons asked for reports every 90 days.

"You are only a beneficiary as long as you stick with the commitment," he said.

If Thomas fails the program, or faces another arrest, she would be sent to prison.

"You cannot drink, you cannot use drugs. You have a chance to get your life in order," Gibbons said.


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