Paula Lopez

Paula Lopez

KEYT News anchor Paula Lopez could avoid prosecution for a recent public-intoxication charge by paying to enroll in a Misdemeanor Diversion Program, the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office announced Thursday.

Lopez, 48, was arrested on a public-intoxication charge Monday afternoon near her foothills home west of Santa Barbara, according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department.

She was taken into custody, and later released with a citation to appear in court.

After reviewing the case, District Attorney Joyce Dudley said Thursday that public intoxication is one of several charges that qualify for the office’s diversion program, which was created in November 2012.

Lopez is both eligible and suitable for the program, which costs $250, Dudley said.

“Should she choose to enroll and complete this program, the charge of public intoxication will be dropped,” Dudley said. “Should she decide to not enroll or not complete the program, she will be criminally prosecuted for public intoxication.”

In a statement Wednesday, Lopez acknowledged that her July 29 arrest — and an unusual disappearance earlier this year — were related to an ongoing battle against alcoholism.

On Feb. 27, Lopez was reported missing by family members, but was safely reunited with them later that day after an exhaustive search by law enforcement.

Since the inception of the county’s Misdemeanor Diversion Program, 188 public intoxication cases have been referred to the program, and 141 people enrolled, Dudley said.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.