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Saturday, January 19 , 2019, 7:04 am | Fair 45º


Probation Violation Hearing Begins in Actress Jensen Buchanan’s DUI Crash Case

An electronic monitor reportedly shows she had 'multiple instances of alcohol consumption' while free from jail after drunken driving charges

Actress Jensen Buchanan sits next to her attorney, Josh Lynn, during her probation violation hearing on Friday in Santa Barbara County Superior Court. Click to view larger
Actress Jensen Buchanan sits next to her attorney, Josh Lynn, during her probation violation hearing on Friday in Santa Barbara County Superior Court. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Data from an electronic alcohol monitor showed that veteran soap opera actress Jensen Buchanan had “multiple instances of alcohol consumption,” according to a vice president for the company responsible for the device.

A probation violation hearing on whether Buchanan consumed alcohol while free from the county jail after drunken driving charges began Friday before Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge James Voysey. 

The judge tentatively scheduled the hearing to resume March 16, when Buchanan’s defense team is expected to continue to raise doubts about the data in hopes of keeping her out of state prison.

Buchanan, 55, was returned to jail Jan. 12 after her electronic alcohol monitoring device detected she had consumed alcohol, violating the terms of her release.

She initially was arrested in May 2016 after driving the wrong way on Highway 154, causing a crash that critically injured Bradley Asolas, who now lives in Arizona. At the time of the 6:20 a.m. crash, Buchanan had a blood-alcohol content level of 0.34 percent. 

Buchanan pleaded guilty to the charges last fall, and the judge sentenced her to a year in county jail and five years of probation, threatening prison if she violated the terms of her probation.

Questioning by Deputy District Attorney Chrystal Joseph revealed that Buchanan's device, the Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor, or SCRAM, detected violations in December and again in January.

“My opinion in this case is there were multiple instances of alcohol consumption which produced this long transdermal alcohol curve,” said Mark Wojcik, chief technology officer and vice president of engineering for Alcohol Monitoring Systems.

Earlier, he testified about the technology used to monitor alcohol use, detecting consumption through the skin, or transdermally.

“I believe that the results of the SCRAM system are reliable. As I described earlier, they’ve been tested, and there’s no other explanation for this alcohol than what I said,” Wojcik said.

Transdermal alcohol content rises and lowers slower than blood-alcohol levels, he added.

The peak readings for the alleged consumption events showed levels that would equal blood-alcohol content levels of 0.071 to 0.082, and 0.11 to 0.13 for the second event.

Before determining a violation has occurred, the data must be analyzed to ensure that the numbers meet standards and that more than one person has reviewed the results. 

But defense attorney Josh Lynn worked to raise doubts about the data, noting that Wojcik testified about the rates that alcohol is eliminated from the system but that the information from Buchanan’s device revealed different numbers. 

Wojcik said the device’s data degrades over time because the alcohol sensor loses sensitivity, requiring annual recalibration of monitors.

“By reading low, not high, we’re basically giving every benefit of the doubt to the client,” Wojcik said. 

Lynn asked why the device continued to claim alcohol consumption even after Buchanan had been in jail for 48 hours. 

“I’m aware that it was reading a very low quantity of alcohol,” Wojcik said, adding that the levels at that time would not register any type of alert about a potential violation.

“How many days do you go by before you’re thinking, 'Wow, I wonder if this bracelet just isn’t working correctly because it keeps going off?’ ” Lynn said.

Wojcik said he has seen cases where it can take 48 hours before the device stops detecting alcohol and noted a drop in the level once the bracelet was removed.

Other testimony Friday came from Deputy Aaron Gray, who interacted with Buchanan through the alternative sentencing program and testified about a phone conversation when Oxnard police arrived to take her into custody. 

Buchanan denied consuming alcohol, then claimed that chocolate candies she had eaten listed liquor on the label, the deputy testified.

He said he never detected an odor or other symptoms to make him suspect that Buchanan had used alcohol. But under questioning from the judge, the deputy said he had no other in-person contact with Buchanan after Dec. 31 beyond the initial meeting on Nov. 28.

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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