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Archive for Sunday, October 19, 2003

Senate majority leader gets diversion for DUI

Agreement allows Oleen to avoid trial

October 19, 2003

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— Senate Majority Leader Lana Oleen has reached a diversion agreement in Shawnee County on charges of drunken driving and a traffic infraction, avoiding a trial that was scheduled for Oct. 28.

Diversion is typically offered by prosecutors to a first-time DUI offender in a noninjury case if the accused was cooperative with an arresting officer and agreed to take a breath test. The offender must agree to certain penalties, and the charges are dropped in exchange.

Oleen, 54, R-Manhattan, was cited Feb. 25 in southeast Topeka after a Shawnee County sheriff's deputy observed her driving slowly and failing to keep her Jeep Cherokee in a single lane of traffic. Oleen was booked into the county jail after failing a field sobriety test and was released on $1,000 bond.

To complete the yearlong diversion program, Oleen must attend Alcohol Information School and pay a $500 fine, $150 evaluation fee, $160 DUI supervision fee and $59 in court costs, according to court records filed Oct. 15. Oleen also was fined $60 for the improper lane change.

After a year, the DUI case is dismissed, but if a motorist is charged with a later DUI, the diversion is counted as a conviction for sentencing purposes.

Oleen is the second state senator to enter a diversion program because of a DUI case this year.

Sen. Edward Pugh, R-Wamego, was arrested Jan. 3 after a noninjury vehicle accident in Topeka. He entered a diversion agreement May 28 on the DUI charge and an unsafe backing infraction.

Oleen's license was suspended for 30 days beginning last March by the state's Division of Vehicles, which handles licensing matters and can impose administrative sanctions that are separate from criminal charges in DUI cases.

The division reinstated Oleen's license in April with a 330-day restriction that limits her to driving to work and to sessions of an alcohol safety program. Drivers who fail sobriety tests may seek hearings before their licenses are suspended and restricted, but Oleen chose not to do so. She said that accepting the sanctions was a step toward putting the case behind her.

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