More jail for Aspen woman convicted of 6th DUI
A 58-year-old local woman sentenced to 10 years’ probation and 90 days in jail last week for her sixth DUI conviction received more time behind bars Tuesday.
Pitkin County Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely sentenced Karen Sahr to another year in jail — on top of the 90 days she got last week — for racking up her sixth DUI while on probation for her fifth DUI.
“For me, you don’t have any more chances,” Fernandez-Ely said. “You’re a bad driver. You’re a drunk driver.
“You really are a danger to the community.”
Fernandez-Ely sentenced Sahr to 90 days in jail in January 2015 after Sahr pleaded guilty to her fifth DUI. In the course of that sentence, the judge also suspended a 365-day jail sentence pending Sahr’s successful completion of three years’ probation, which did not occur.
That fifth DUI arrest occurred after Sahr slammed into the back of a Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office patrol vehicle parked on the shoulder of Highway 82 near Wildcat Ranch. Deputy Erin Smiddy, who was sitting in the driver’s seat at the time, was injured, while Sahr’s blood alcohol level registered a 0.18, more than twice the legal driving limit.
On Tuesday, Fernandez-Ely said that after she agreed to impose the 90-day jail sentence two years ago, she paused for a moment.
“It was stark to see it in print,” the judge said.
And while reports at the time said Smiddy was not seriously injured, Fernandez-Ely said she personally saw the deputy in pain.
“This was a serious car accident,” Fernandez-Ely told Sahr. “You’re lucky she’s a strong person.”
Sahr was arrested in August for her sixth DUI after police received a report of a driver swerving in the 800 block of East Hyman Avenue and using a right turn signal to switch into the left lane, according to police. Two witnesses followed Sahr and saw her hit a parked car, then stagger and stumble away when she got out of her car.
“The No. 1 condition (of her probation for the fifth DUI) was that you don’t commit another crime,” Fernandez-Ely said. “You hit a car.”
So for not successfully completing her three-year probation sentence, Fernandez-Ely gave her the 365 days she initially suspended two years ago.
“If you wouldn’t drive, you wouldn’t be a danger to society,” Fernandez-Ely said. “I just hope you stop driving.”
Sahr pleaded guilty to felony DUI in connection with her latest arrest. Under Colorado law, a person can be charged with felony DUI after three previous DUI convictions. However, the Colorado Legislature didn’t make that change until August 2015, which was after Sahr’s fifth DUI arrest. Previously, all DUIs were considered misdemeanors.
In addition to the 10 years of probation and 90 days of jail for the felony conviction, Aspen District Judge Chris Seldin last week also suspended a three-year prison sentence for Sahr. That means if she doesn’t successfully complete the 10-year probation sentence, she could be sent to prison for three years.
Seldin could have imposed a two-to-six-year prison sentence, but said he wanted Sahr to have an opportunity to attend a special court for DUI offenders and would defer to a probation officer’s recommendation of probation. Because he chose probation, Seldin was only allowed to sentence Sahr to 90 days of jail.
Sahr, who began serving that 90-day sentence Friday, will be allowed to go to work during the day for both the 90 day and the 365-day sentence and report back to jail at night, according to both judges’ rulings.
Sahr apologized for her actions Tuesday and said she’s committed to a life of sobriety.
“To say I’m sorry for my actions last August doesn’t begin to cover it,” she said. “I will do what it takes to stay sober.”
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