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Actress Jensen Buchanan Denied Bail Pending Probation Violation Hearing in DUI Case

A veteran soap opera actress who pleaded guilty last year to drunken driving and causing a crash that critically injured another driver in May 2016 must remain in Santa Barbara County Jail facing a probation violation, a judge ruled Monday morning.

Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge James Voysey denied a request to release Jensen Buchanan, 55, of Montecito, after she was taken into custody for an alleged probation violation.

“I’m not going to release her,” Voysey said during the hearing. “This is a significant case and I can still hear the victims’ voices …. At this point, I’m not going to give the benefit of the doubt to Ms. Buchanan.”

He suggested setting a probation violation hearing as quickly as possible, but a date remained in limbo Monday while the attorneys and judge tried to coordinate schedules including the availability of an expert to testify about the electronic alcohol monitoring device results.

The probation violation hearing was set for 9:30 a.m. Jan. 31 in Voysey's courtroom.

During a previous hearing, Judge Patricia Kelly also denied bail for Buchanan.

In May 2016, Buchanan was driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.34, more than four times the legal limit of 0.08, when she crossed into the opposite lane and collided with the vehicle driven by Bradley Asolas of Arizona.

He spent more than 30 days in Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital recovering for multiple injuries, and still suffers multiple effects from the crash.

In October, Voysey sentenced Buchanan to spend one year in Santa Barbara County Jail and to five years of probation, over the objections of the victim, his wife and the District Attorney’s Office.

Jensen Buchanan, of Montecito, shown here at an April 2017 hearing, remains in custody at the Santa Barbara County Jail awaiting a hearing on an alleged probation violation. Click to view larger
Jensen Buchanan, of Montecito, shown here at an April 2017 hearing, remains in custody at the Santa Barbara County Jail awaiting a hearing on an alleged probation violation.  (Noozhawk file photo)

But the judge warned Buchanan that if she didn’t follow the rules she would face the six-year prison sentence.

The woman spent less than two months in county jail before she was released Nov. 28, a step typically taken for defendants deemed low risk due to overcrowded conditions.

Authorities contend Buchanan’s electronic monitor detected alcohol between Dec. 29 and Jan. 11, leading to her arrest for the alleged probation violation.

Defense attorney Josh Lynn asked the judge to allow his client to be released on bail or her own recognizance pending the hearing, saying witnesses and lab results will show Buchanan was not drinking.

However, Deputy District Attorney Jon Kawashima objected to the defense attorney’s assorted assertions, saying an expert will testify during the hearing about what the device detected.

Lynn expressed frustration at waiting for an expert’s availability.

“I really don’t care what their schedule is. I have someone in custody,” Lynn said, asking for a hearing to show good cause for why Buchanan should remain in jail.

“As we all know the defendant is entitled to a probation violation hearing in a reasonable time, not at Mr. Lynn’s urging. There are going to be experts involved,” Kawashima said, adding that time will be needed to exchange discovery. 

Lynn said he would bring in one expert plus two other witnesses and contended they could be there Tuesday to say Buchanan did not drink alcohol .

“I want to get this thing resolved as quickly as possible also,” the judge said. “But I also need to do it in an efficient manner.”

At the start of Monday's hearing, the judge received written victims’ impact statements from Asolas and his wife. 

On the day of Buchanan’s sentencing, the actress vowed to never drink again, a statement Asolas said he wanted to believe then. He envisioned them using their stories to speak to teens about the perils of drinking and driving, he added.

“Sadly, I was wrong and her statement was just a good actress doing what she does best — playing probably the most important role of her life, trying to stay out of prison,” he said, asking the judge to impose the six-year prison sentence.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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