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Saturday, January 19 , 2019, 1:11 pm | Fair 70º


Paula Lopez DUI Case Transferred to North County DA’s Office

Paula Lopez Ochoa is interviewed by firefighters and paramedics Sunday night in Goleta prior to her arrest on suspicion of DUI and resisting and assaulting police officers.
Paula Lopez Ochoa is interviewed by firefighters and paramedics Sunday night in Goleta prior to her arrest on suspicion of DUI and resisting and assaulting police officers.  (Zack Warburg / Noozhawk photo)

Paula Lopez, a longtime television news anchor for KEYT and KCOY who was arrested for allegedly driving under the influence and assaulting officers on Sunday, will have her case handled by the North County District Attorney’s Office even though she was taken into custody in Goleta.

Lopez, 50, whose full name is Paula Lopez Ochoa, and her husband, retired Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Frank Ochoa, are well-known in the Santa Barbara area, and the DA’s office decided to move the case to the North County after discussing it with the Attorney General’s office, District Attorney Joyce Dudley said Thursday.

Staff in Santa Barbara may know Ochoa from appearing before him in court, and North County staff “wouldn’t have seen them around town,” Dudley said.  

Though Noozhawk previously reported the Santa Maria office would handle the case, it will be transferred to the Lompoc office, Dudley said.

A filing deputy there will decide what charges to file, once reports are forwarded from the California Highway Patrol, and a district attorney will be assigned to prosecute the case.

Dudley herself won’t be involved in the case at all, instead putting supervision in the hands of a North County chief deputy district attorney, she added.

Paula Lopez Ochoa
Paula Lopez Ochoa

Dudley expects the reports to come in two weeks or so.

The charges for which Lopez was arrested are all misdemeanors, she noted: driving under the influence of alcohol, resisting arrest, and assaulting a Santa Barbara County sheriff’s deputy and CHP officer.

Lopez was arrested after the CHP received a report of a wrong-way driver on Highway 101 west of Goleta.

CHP Officer John Gutierrez said a silver Toyota Prius was reportedly traveling southbound in the northbound lanes, and the car was eventually located in the parking lot of the Sandpiper Golf Course, 7925 Hollister Ave.

County firefighters and American Medical Response were on scene, having been called to a what was originally reported as a vehicle-versus pedestrian traffic collision but ended up being unfounded. They evaluated Lopez in the parking lot.

Officers determined Lopez was the driver of the wrong-way Toyota on the freeway, and that she was under the influence of alcohol at the time, Gutierrez said.

She was booked into the County Jail with bail set at $5,000 late Sunday night, and was released Monday afternoon on her own recognizance, according to the Sheriff’s Department.

Lopez previously has spoken publicly about her ongoing battle with alcoholism, and said she was getting medical treatment after a public-intoxication arrest in July 2013 and a day-long disappearance earlier that year.

She went through the county’s misdemeanor diversion program for that arrest and the charge was never filed, Dudley said.

This is the second recent case where the District Attorney’s Office has changed its prosecution strategy to avoid a potential conflict of interest.

The county referred the Richard Daniel Farr case to the Attorney General’s Office because his parents have “multiple levels of involvement” with the DA’s Office, Dudley said.

His parents are Third District Santa Barbara County Supervisor Doreen Farr and Goleta Councilman Jim Farr, who are divorced.

Doreen Farr has some control over the DA’s funding, Dudley noted.

Farr was arrested after being placed on a mental-health hold, during which deputies discovered more than 50 pounds of marijuana, two guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition in his home, according to the sheriff’s department.  

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli 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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