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Jensen Buchanan To Remain In Jail for Alleged Probation Violation

Veteran soap opera actress to appear Monday in Santa Barbara County Superior Court after monitor detects alcohol

A tearful Jensen Buchanan during her sentencing hearing in October, when she was ordered to spend 365 days in Santa Barbara County Jail and five years felony probation after pleading guilty to driving with a blood-alcohol content more than four times above the legal limit and causing a crash that critically injured an Arizona man last May. Click to view larger
A tearful Jensen Buchanan during her sentencing hearing in October, when she was ordered to spend 365 days in Santa Barbara County Jail and five years felony probation after pleading guilty to driving with a blood-alcohol content more than four times above the legal limit and causing a crash that critically injured an Arizona man last May. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk file photo)

Veteran soap opera actress Jensen Buchanan, who pleaded guilty last year to driving with a blood-alcohol content more than four times above the legal limit and causing a crash that critically injured an Arizona man, will remain in jail for allegedly drinking alcohol while on felony probation.

Buchanan, 55, of Montecito was arraigned on the probation-violation charge Thursday morning in Santa Maria Superior Court, and denied the allegation via her attorney Griselda Carreon, standing in for colleague Josh Lynn,.

Judge Patricia Kelly rejected a defense request to set bail so that Buchanan could be released from Santa Barbara County Jail, saying the matter could be taken up during the next court date, set for Monday morning.

At that time, Judge James Voysey, who originally sentenced Buchanan, will set a hearing date for the alleged violation, and could revisit the bail request, Kelly said.

On Thursday, Kelly said she had to consider public safety and underlying allegations in deciding whether to set bail for a felony parole violation case.

"I don't see extenuating circumances here," she said in ruling Buchanan should remain in jail with no bail set.

Buchanan initially was arrested following a two-car crash on Highway 154 near Live Oak Camp, where she was driving the wrong way on May 18, 2016, the California Highway Patrol said.

The driver of the other vehicle, Bradley Asolas, who now lives in Arizona, suffered major injuries and had to be extricated from his vehicle. 

He spent more than 30 days in Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, and continues his recovery from the various injuries more than a year later, he told the court.

After the 6:20 a.m. collision, authorities said Buchanan was driving with a blood-alcohol content of 0.34 percent. Any BAC over 0.08 percent is considered drunken driving under California law.

In August, before the start of her preliminary hearing, Buchanan pleaded guilty to felony driving under the influence of alcohol causing injury, and felony driving with a blood-alcohol level of .08 percent or greater. 

She also admitted to causing great bodily injury and driving with a blood alcohol level above .15 percent.

The guilty plea came after the judge indicated what sentence she would face amid vehement objections from Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office representatives, who sought prison time.

During the October hearing, the judge sentenced to Buchanan to spend 365 days in Santa Barbara County Jail and five years felony probation.

He also suspended the 6-year prison term, but issued a stern warning after hearing from Asolas and his wife about their lives since the crash.

Among many standard terms of her sentencing, Buchanan was ordered to avoid alcohol. 

“Should Ms. Buchanan violate the terms and conditions of her probation, every day of that six-year prison sentence is right there, and I would not hesitate to impose it,” Voysey said told the court during the sentencing hearing.

Buchanan reportedly had been out of custody on alternative sentencing, which requires wearing an electronic alcohol monitoring device.

The county jail periodically releases some inmates to alternative sentencing programs due to overcrowding.

In the new allegation, probation officers allege the device registered alcohol use between Dec. 29 and Jan. 11, with a peak reading of 0.18, Chief Deputy District Attorney Cynthia Gresser said after reviewing the probation report.

Buchanan reportedly was arrested by Oxnard police on Jan. 12 and booked into the Ventura County Jail, according to that facility's online records, which also said she was released from that jail early Wednesday. The jail website listed her manner of release as "other county."

Buchanan was in custody in Santa Barbara County Jail as of Wednesday night, a records clerk said.

On Thursday morning, Buchanan appeared in court wearing an orange jail uniform top and blue pants.

In making the bail request, the defense attorney said her client has been sober since the crash and was deemed a good candidate for alternative sentencing when she was released Nov. 28. 

“What’s terribly frustrating here is Ms. Buchanan has been doing everything that’s been asked of her,” Carreon said. 

The defense attorney said that during the two-week period of the alleged violation Buchanan remained in contact with authorities despite the Thomas Fire and Montecito mudslide.

“Once again throughout that time Ms. Buchanan did everything that was asked of her,” Carreon said, adding her client was evacuated to Oxnard. 

It was only after two disasters, Christmas and New Year’s, that electronic monitoring device representatives notified the Probation Department about the alcohol allegation, Carreon said.

Probation officers never met with Buchanan, instead requesting that Oxnard police take the woman into custody and did not offer to conduct a urine test, Carreon added.

The defense attorney said her client was not driving and had remained in contact with law enforcement officers during the two weeks authorities alleged she violated.

“None of them suspected that she was drunk or had any reason to do so,”  Carreon said, adding the electronic monitor had been unreliable in the past for Buchanan. 

Deputy District Attorney Jon Kawashima said the arraignment hearing was not the proper time to argue the matter, and the judge agreed.

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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