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Thursday, March 21 , 2019, 3:56 am | A Few Clouds 47º


Court Case for Santa Ynez High Principal Charged with DUI Pushed to Jan. 16

Mark Swanitz Click to view larger
Mark Swanitz

The drunken-driving case involving Santa Ynez Valley High School Principal Mark Swanitz has been postponed until next month.

Attorney Billy Redell appeared in Santa Barbara County Superior Court on behalf of Swanitz, 50, who was not required to attend the hearing. 

The principal was arrested Oct. 21 following a non-injury vehicle crash caused by the other driver making a left turn onto Highway 246 between Buellton and Solvang.

Swanitz previously entered not-guilty pleas for two misdemeanor charges — driving under the influence of alcohol and driving with a blood alcohol content of .08 or greater.

The readiness-and-settlement hearing was continued to Jan. 16 in Judge Gustavo Lavayen’s courtroom in Santa Maria.

Deputy District Attorney Austin Ingalls represented the prosecution team. 

Authorities say Swanitz’s blood-alcohol content was .12 after the crash.

But Swanitz’s defense attorney said he may challenge the level, noting Swanitz showed a .10 using a preliminary alcohol screening device at the scene of the accident and .12 for a breath test at the station later.

Redell said the readings show the blood-alcohol level was rising and contends it likely was .08 at the time of crash.

“I believe it’s a triable issue,” Redell said, adding he wasn’t sure his client wanted the case to go go trial. 

Swanitz was en route to a fundraiser and had a couple of beers, one of which he reportedly consumed quickly prior to heading to the event, Redell said.

It was Swanitz who called the California Highway Patrol to report the accident, Redell added. 

Additionally, the CHP officers asked Swanitz to move his vehicle at the scene of the crash, the attorney added.

Since his DUI arrest, the principal has received strong support and equally strong criticism from the Santa Ynez Valley community.

On Tuesday morning, he was busy spreading the word that the Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District — both the main campus and its continuation high school — had canceled school until Jan. 2 with final exams delayed until that week.

The decision was made out of an abundance of caution over air quality concerns due to the Thomas Fire, to align with schedules of feeder districts, and to give students the best chance at success on their finals, district officials said.

School staff will craft a new finals schedule and distribute it through its normal notifications methods.

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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