Sheriff to be charged with DUI and evading arrest

(MADERA COUNTY, Calif.) -- Sheriff John P. Anderson will be formally charged with driving under the influence and with evading arrest while driving recklessly, the Yolo County district attorney said Nov. 28.

The charges stem from Anderson's arrest by West Sacramento police in the early hours of Nov. 1. Police say he was found asleep and slumped in the front seat of a Madera County-owned vehicle that was parked with the engine running.

Anderson is scheduled to appear at an arraignment on the two misdemeanors on Dec. 1 in Yolo County Court, said District Attorney David Henderson.

Anderson said on Nov. 28 he had not heard any specifics about the pending charges. "Reckless driving -- holy cow," he said.

Anderson said he did not know whether he would attend the arraignment, adding that he would consult his lawyer before making that decision.

Henderson said Anderson faces a maximum of six months in Yolo County Jail on the driving under the influence charge and a maximum of a year in jail on the evasion charge.

The maximum sentences are unlikely considering these are first offenses, Henderson said.

Anderson, 60, was elected Madera County's sheriff in 1998.

He has had a 39-year career in law enforcement. Before assuming the county job, he served as chief of the California Highway Patrol Central Division, supervising 900 officers and employees in 17 commands over nine counties.

West Sacramento police said the arrest occurred about 2:30 a.m. After speaking to the officer who had stopped to inspect the parked Ford Crown Victoria, Anderson drove away, police said.

Anderson was stopped a short distance away and taken into custody.

Anderson's blood-alcohol level read 0.13% and 0.15% on separate tests, police said. A level of 0.08% is considered legally drunk in California.

The sheriff has said he went to a meeting Oct. 31 in Sacramento in an attempt to get funding for off-highway vehicles for Madera County.

He said he went to a pizzeria with a friend that night for pizza and beer.

Anderson said he didn't know how much beer he drank but that he apparently had too much.

Henderson said his office has until 5 p.m. Nov. 29 to file the criminal charges. He already had decided on the charges and was processing them Nov. 28 afternoon.

Henderson said it took about a month between the arrest and the filing of charges because the police needed to fill out their reports and his office needed to review the allegations.

Evasion with reckless driving is a charge that could be pursued as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

The district attorney said his department is filing it as a misdemeanor.

Henderson said that a conviction for drunken driving would mean a loss of a driver's license for a year.

However, first-time offenders such as Anderson can get restricted licenses that allow them to drive to, from and during work.

Henderson said convictions on the misdemeanors would not legally prevent Anderson from serving as sheriff, but he said they could cause other problems.

"What the legal ramifications are, I can tell you about that," Henderson said.

"What the practical ramifications are, I'm not sure."

November 29, 2000, Wednesday FINAL EDITION
Copyright 2000 McClatchy Newspapers, Inc.
The Fresno Bee
November 29, 2000, Wednesday FINAL EDITION
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