Program popular alternative to prison for DUI cases

A program allowing drunken drivers to avoid a felony charge has been far more popular than officials anticipated.

Chief Alternative Sentencing Officer Doug Swalm said he expected five or six offenders a year when the program was instituted on Jan. 1, 2008.

More than two dozen people have taken advantage of the 3-5 year program, which includes house arrest for the first six months and then weekly court hearings to determine if they're remaining sober.

Swalm told Judge Michael Gibbons that he's doing fairly intense supervision of the people in the program.

"I see them a lot," he said in asking the department not be asked to supervise a candidate who lives in Sacramento.

Three cases where defendants were seeking diversion came before Gibbons on Monday.

Wilson "Woody" Hunsberger, 36, was arrested March 14 in the parking lot of an apartment complex.

Hunsberger was arrested after deputies received a domestic battery complaint. Prosecutor Eric Levin said Hunsberger battered a jail deputy. While that charge is being dropped, Levin said the district attorney's office is opposing diversion in his case.

Should the court not grant diversion, Hunsberger faces up to six years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Gibbons set a May 18 sentencing date.

Also seeking diversion is Jasmine Coty, 27, who admitted to driving under the influence. Coty was still on probation for a second DUI at Lake Tahoe when she was arrested after a Feb. 8 accident in the parking lot of a Minden convenience store.

She had a .19 blood alcohol content, according to her test. Levin asked that a pre-sentence report be prepared by the Department of Parole and Probation so he had more information on which to base a decision on Coty's diversion.

Levin said he supported diversion for a Sacramento man who was arrested for felony driving under the influence on Jan. 4, 2009.

Sotero Martinez's attorney, Tod Young, said his client was willing to do whatever it took to get through the diversion program, even paying a private firm to monitor his house arrest.

It was a suggestion that Douglas County monitor Martinez that prompted Swalm's comments.


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