Aspen woman receives 3 months in jail for felony DUI plea
A 55-year-old Aspen woman will spend the next three months in jail after pleading guilty to felony drunken driving last spring.
Kari Aaeng alsowill serve three years of supervised probation following the jail sentence, when she will be tested for alcohol and drugs and must complete 48 hours of community service, District Judge Chris Seldin said Monday.
“The court does believe that with a track record like this, a punitive component is appropriate,” Seldin said. “In fact, many question whether 90 days of jail is sufficient.”
In Colorado, a person’s fourth DUI is considered a felony. Prosecutor Sarah Oszczakiewicz told Seldin on Monday that Aaeng’s latest DUI was her fifth. She also said Aaeng started drinking alcohol when she was 5 years old, citing a pre-sentence report done by the probation department.
Aaeng was stopped by Aspen police in late February after a 16-year-old former family member called police and reported that Aaeng struck her in the face. Aaeng’s breath-alcohol content at the time of her arrest was .297, which is nearly four times the legal driving limit of .08.
That concentration of alcohol could be lethal to someone who doesn’t drink often, Oszczakiewicz said.
Richard Nedlin, Aaeng’s attorney, said in court Monday that Aaeng had no intention of driving that day until her ex-husband’s daughter arrived and an argument ensued. Aaeng wanted to leave her ex-husband’s home because of the situation and made a mistake by getting into her car, Nedlin said.
Soon after her arrest, however, Aaeng took it upon herself to enroll in an alcohol treatment program in Minnesota, where she said Monday she’s been able to make huge strides in getting her alcohol addiction under control.
“I lost everything — my house, my job, my community,” Aaeng said. “With this felony conviction, I have a master’s degree I’ll never be able to use.”
Still, she said she’s OK with all that.
“I have mad respect for the disease (of alcoholism),” she said. “I feel my sobriety today is a gift.”
Shawn Brown, a local probation officer, spoke in court Monday and said he didn’t believe Aaeng needed to go to jail, and that a gap in her treatment in Minnesota could prove problematic.
Still, Seldin handed down the 90-day sentence, saying that DUIs are “extremely serious” and can cause injuries to people who might be driving down the road simply heading for home after work.
Aaeng will be eligible for work release during her sentence, which means that if she can find a job in Aspen she will be able to work during the day and report back to the jail at night. Also, Seldin said her probation could be transferred to Minnesota after she serves her time.
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Despite nearly a month of intense investigation by two APD detectives, two investigators with the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office and help from an FBI agent in Glenwood Springs, the case is progressing slowly.