SACRAMENTO (AP) — A state senator charged with drunken driving after a party at the state Capitol is being offered the chance to plead guilty to a lesser offense, a prosecutor said Thursday.
Sen. Ben Hueso could avoid any jail time and pay lower fines if he accepts the offer, said Steve Grippi, Sacramento County’s chief deputy district attorney.
Hueso’s attorney, Margaret Ann Virga, declined comment.
Hueso was arraigned Thursday on two misdemeanor counts of driving under the influence and driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher.
Hueso, 45, will be allowed to plead guilty instead to the lesser offense of alcohol-related reckless driving, said Grippi. He would have to accept the offer at his next court appearance on Nov. 6, two days after voters decide whether to re-elect the San Diego Democrat.
The lesser offense does not require that he serve 48 hours in jail, a requirement if he is convicted of drunken driving. The lower offense carries a base fine of about $240, down from about $520 for a DUI, Grippi said. Fees and other penalties add substantially to the base fines.
He would have to take a six-week alcohol education program, half the length of the program required of those convicted of DUI.
Both crimes would require Hueso to serve three years of informal probation. If Hueso admitted the lesser offense it would still count as a prior DUI if he were convicted of a second offense.
Grippi said Hueso is receiving no special treatment.
“Our offers are extremely standardized,” he said, and the same offer would be made to anyone under similar circumstances.
This is Hueso’s first drunken driving charge and a blood test showed him with a 0.08 percent blood alcohol level, right at the legal limit, Grippi said.
“There’s always an error margin,” Grippi said, so the true blood alcohol level “could be lower than .08.”
Hueso’s arrest was the latest black eye for Senate Democrats. One resigned after being sentenced to jail for lying about his residency and two others are suspended after being charged in separate federal corruption cases.
A California Highway Patrol officer saw Hueso driving the wrong way on a downtown Sacramento street on Aug. 22, and he was arrested at 2:39 a.m.
Earlier that night, Hueso and other lawmakers were photographed drinking in the Capitol after a dinner for the Latino Legislative caucus. He was alone in the car when he was arrested.
Hueso told reporters when he left the jail last month that he was “going to pursue my innocence.” Soon thereafter, however, his office issued a statement saying he accepted responsibility and would accept any punishment he receives.