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Archive for Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Senator accepts license restrictions resulting from DUI

June 24, 2003

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— Senate Majority Leader Lana Oleen did not appeal the standard sanctions placed on her driving privileges after her arrest for drunken driving, records show.

That means the Republican from Manhattan automatically had her license suspended for 30 days, starting on March 27. After the suspension ended April 25, she was restricted to driving to and from work and to and from sessions of an alcohol safety program for 330 days, or until March 19, 2004.

Both automatic sanctions are standard for a person arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs for the first time.

The law does not specify definitions for driving to and from work, and the matter is left up to law enforcement officials, said Sheila Walker, the Department of Revenue's director of vehicles.

The department released the record describing Oleen's license suspension and restricted driving privileges Monday. The Associated Press had inquired about the status of any hearing appealing the sanctions, and the agency said there would be none.

Oleen was not available for comment Monday. Her attorney, Colt Knutson, of Manhattan, said Oleen was out of town and said he wanted to consult with her before commenting.

The department's Division of Vehicles issues licenses, and any restriction, suspension or revocation of a person's driving privileges are an administrative matter, handled separately from any criminal charges.

A Shawnee County Sheriff's deputy arrested Oleen early Feb. 25. Authorities said the officer observed her driving slowly in southeast Topeka and failing to keep her Jeep Cherokee in a single lane of traffic. She failed field-sobriety and Breathalyzer tests, authorities said.

A criminal trial in Oleen's case is scheduled for Oct. 28 in Shawnee County District Court. However, she has said she would seek a diversion agreement, under which she would agree to take certain actions in exchange for having the charges dropped. Such agreements are common for first-time offenders.

After her arrest, Oleen said she intended to answer the charges against her and "was subject to the same rules as any other person."

Oleen, 53, has been a senator since 1989. She became majority leader in 2001 after serving eight years as chairwoman of the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee.

Oleen was the second senator arrested for drunken driving this year. The first, Sen. Ed Pugh, R-Wamego, entered into a diversion agreement in May, under which he agreed to seek alcohol treatment.

Pugh sought an administrative hearing on his license, and during that proceeding, questions arose about whether sobriety and Breathalyzer tests were administered properly. A hearing officer dismissed the action against his license.

Under Kansas law, an officer who arrests someone for drunken driving takes that person's license and gives the motorist a pink slip instead, allowing that person to drive until the administrative process is complete.

A motorist has 10 days after a breath test and 13 days after a blood test to request an administrative hearing.

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