Aspen woman gets 90-day jail sentence for fifth DUI |

Aspen woman gets 90-day jail sentence for fifth DUI

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times

A Pitkin County judge handed down a 90-day jail sentence and 36 months of supervised probation to an Aspen woman who recently pleaded guilty to her fifth DUI since 1991.

In addition, Karen Sahr, 57, will be required to perform 50 hours of public service, complete 86 hours of drunken-driving therapy and apply for acceptance to the local DUI Court, a monitoring program intended to promote alcohol-free living similar to the local Drug Court.

Sahr received her latest DUI arrest nearly one year ago, on March 10, when the car she was driving rear-ended a Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office patrol vehicle that was parked on the shoulder of Highway 82 near Wildcat Ranch.

Deputy Erin Smiddy, who was sitting in the driver’s seat of the Chevrolet Tahoe SUV at the time of the accident, was not present for the sentencing hearing Tuesday. Prosecutor Michael Warren said in court that Smiddy was injured in the accident.

Sahr tested at a blood-alcohol level of 0.18 soon after the crash, according to court records. The threshold for DUI arrests in Colorado is 0.08.

Through a plea agreement with the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, Sahr’s sentencing recommendation was for a 60- or 90-day jail term. But Warren asked Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely for the maximum of 90 days, and got it.

“This is a very aggravated DUI, and the court should take that under consideration,” Warren said.

A misdemeanor charge of careless driving-causing injury was previously dismissed by the District Attorney’s Office.

Aspen attorney Charles D. Fagan, who represented Sahr, described his client as a hard-working, giving member of the community who grew up in a difficult environment in Alaska, the daughter of an alcoholic father.

Sahr has shown remorse for her actions, even visiting Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo to apologize, Fagan said.

He said Sahr was much more worried about how her case was affecting Smiddy and others — even her three dogs — rather than herself.

Sahr addressed the court, saying that her remorse for the March 10 accident was “like no other.” She said the accident “may have saved my life” by reinforcing her commitment to sobriety.

“I feel like a whole different person,” Sahr said.

Fernandez-Ely acknowledged letters from Sahr’s employer and made note of her many attributes, but also pointed out that she was the judge presiding over Sahr’s DUI cases in 2003 and 2007.

“I’m having a lot of deja-vu,” Fernandez-Ely said.

But in imposing the sentence, the judge said there was much more to the case than Sahr’s well-being. The community’s concerns had to be weighed as well.

Fernandez-Ely said Sahr may participate in the jail’s work-release program if she qualifies. She scheduled the jail term to start Feb. 13, and set a restitution status hearing for March 24.