PARKER (AP) — A state legislator faces 10 days in jail after pleading guilty to a reduced charge in a drunken driving case.
Rep. Trish Groe, R-Lake Havasu City, pleaded guilty in La Paz County Superior Court on Monday to misdemeanor driving under the influence and was sentenced to spend 10 days in a Maricopa County jail.
Groe, 38, starts the jail term Thursday and will be subject to Maricopa County's work-release policies, said Tina Schwab, chief deputy clerk for La Paz County Superior Court.
Groe originally was charged with one felony count of aggravated DUI and one misdemeanor count of false reporting to a police officer.
Groe was arrested March 22 after being pulled over while returning from Phoenix, and lab tests later found her blood-alcohol level was just below .15, nearly twice the legal limit of .08.
Groe, who also was fined $2,950, would have been forced to resign from office if convicted of a felony. The aggravated DUI charge carries a first-offense sentencing range from one year to three years and nine months in prison.
Groe will begin her sentence Thursday in Maricopa County, a condition that was agreed on in the plea agreement, her attorney Bruce Feder said.
Groe declined to comment after the hearing. She stared straight ahead while in court, dabbing her eyes several times with a tissue, the Today's News-Herald newspaper in Lake Havasu City reported.
Feder said the sentence was fair, telling Judge Michael Burke that his client had "suffered substantially because of this."
"I think she's paid a large price," Feder said after the hearing. "She's always accepted responsibility for what happened."
Groe pleaded innocent to the original charges on Oct. 1 when arraigned on a Sept. 18 indictment, and she originally told the arresting officer that she hadn't been drinking.
It would have been difficult to convict Groe of the felony charge stemming from her driving on a suspended license, special prosecutor Dennis Wilenchik said in an e-mail to the Lake Havasu City newspaper.
"She showed reasonable efforts to rectify the suspension, which would have probably led to reasonable doubt on the issue. Her tests were borderline also in terms of margin of error," he said. "She was treated fairly like anyone else would be under these circumstances as far as I am concerned."
Wilenchik was hired to handle the case after County Attorney Martin Brannan recused himself, saying he had a conflict of interest because Groe represents La Paz County in the Legislature.
Groe was elected to the House in 2004 as one of two representatives from District 3, which is centered on Mohave County. She was re-elected in 2006. She took a temporary leave from the Legislature to seek treatment for an alcohol addiction after her arrest.
On the Net:
Arizona Legislature: http://www.azleg.gov/
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