CCN reporter arrested on DUI charge for .06 blood alcohol level

August 21, 2013
Josh Walsh

Josh Walsh

By JOSH FRIEDMAN and DANIEL BLACKBURN

CalCoastNews reporter and co-founder Karen Velie was taken into custody on Aug. 13 after a San Luis Obispo police officer arrested her on suspicion of driving under the influence. Officer Josh Walsh placed Velie under arrest after her blood alcohol test showed a .06. California’s drunk driving laws require an arrest if a driver has a .08 alcohol level.

The arrest comes during CalCoastNews investigations into activities at CAPSLO, the county’s nonprofit that serves homeless persons as well as wrongdoing over the handling of hazardous wastes.

Walsh said at the time of the arrest that he would have arrested her even if she had a blood alcohol level of as little as .01, Velie said. California law prohibits driving while intoxicated no matter what the blood alcohol level.

At the time of the arrest, Velie had just finished teaching a bridge class at a San Luis Obispo restaurant.

Twenty-four people attended the class, several of whom saw Velie minutes before the traffic stop. After the arrest, Velie spoke to the majority of the class members, all of whom said she was clearly not intoxicated.

“I only saw her have one glass of wine and she looked fine,” said San Luis Obispo attorney Stew Jenkins. “She did not appear to be under the influence at all.”

Medical doctor Gary Foresman agreed.

“I witnessed her. She was coherent,” Foresman said. “She was teaching bridge to myself and my wife and she was unequivocally not drunk when I left that night.”

Foresman left the restaurant shortly before Velie did.

Former San Luis Obispo police officer Mike Brennler said the arrest of Velie was out of the ordinary.

“In my 33-year law enforcement career, the standard procedure was to release someone who submitted to a breath test that demonstrated they were under the state limit,” Brennler said.

“Bookings in such misdemeanor cases were very rare.”

The arrest and its aftermath appeared to be directly connected to the news agency’s recent reporting on county homeless issues. It came following a months-long series of articles by CalCoastNews detailing activities of Dee Torres, CAPSLO homeless services director. Torres is the fiancé of County Supervisor Adam Hill.

Since the arrest, CalCoastNews opponents have used the alleged DUI as the focal point of a smear campaign targeting CalCoastNews and its advertisers.

Hill sent text messages to CalCoastNews advertisers Tuesday morning informing them of Velie’s arrest.

The text message and email campaign targeting advertisers followed directly in the wake of CalCoastNews reporting on a slander suit filed by Torres against Brennler, who is represented by Jenkins.

CalCoastNews reported on Aug. 19 that Brennler had challenged a sworn statement that Torres filed in her suit. Torres was not truthful in her statement, Brennler said. A hearing on a motion to dismiss the suit is scheduled for Thursday morning.

CalCoastNews also recently published text messages sent by Hill to a key witness in the case, in which the supervisor attempted to get the witness to change his story. That story, which appeared on Aug. 16 showed exchanges between Hill and Ralph Almirol, a former boyfriend of Torres. In the texts, Hill tried to get Almirol to withdraw his statement that he and Torres used gift cards that were intended for the homeless for themselves.


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paragon

As far as the cops arresting Velie over her dispute with Hill & CAPSLO, I just don’t buy it. Most of the cops I know think Hill is an arrogant tool and would sooner arrest him for DUI. They certainly wouldn’t go out of their way to do him any favors.


We can all debate whether or not the SLOPD had it out for Velie. However, what is not in dispute is that Velie believed that they did, based on her statements both to Congalton and to the arresting officer. So I really find it surprising that someone who (by her own admission) “feels the effects of alcohol after taking only a couple sips” decides to drink two “big glasses of wine” (her words) and then drive in a town full of cops that she believes are looking for any excuse to embarrass and arrest her.


If I felt the cops in town had it in for me, I would not drive after even a few sips of alcohol, especially if I knew it affected me more than most people. Considering how easy it is to get arrested for DUI, that seems to just be asking for trouble.


MaryMalone

“If I felt the cops in town had it in for me, I would not drive after even a few sips of alcohol, especially if I knew it affected me more than most people. Considering how easy it is to get arrested for DUI, that seems to just be asking for trouble.”


So you would let the corruption of a police department control you from having any alcohol, for fear that the department’s corrupted officers would nail you with a bogus DUI?


We don’t have to worry about living in a police state, not when people are willing to be so easily intimidated by just the fear of what corrupt police will do.


Stunned

If you’re impaired by alcohol you’ll get arrested. I think most of those borderline cases are cite and release cases UNLESS you’re creating a big scene. Then you get the full “big scene” program.


MaryMalone

“If you’re impaired by alcohol you’ll get arrested.”


Absolutely not true. There are untold numbers of celebrities, politicians and other powerful people who drove impaired but were NOT arrested.


Homer

Apparently this guy didn’t play the “do you know who I am card”: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/nba/news/20130829/mike-budenholzer-atlanta-hawks-dui/?sct=nba_t2_a2


TruthFairy

Apparently, Karen isn’t one of them.


SLOthinker

I enthusiastically support CCN and Karen, however in this case, in the absence of any evidence that this officer, or the SLOPD in general, were out to get Karen, I have to give the arresting officer the benefit of doubt and say he was just doing his job.


Let’s review the facts as seen by the officer at the time of the arrest:

1) Karen did make some sort of erratic driving maneuver.

2) The officer smelled alcohol.

3) Karen does speak with a slight, but noticeable slur. (not her fault but could be construed as evidence of impairment)

4) Karen failed one FST

5) Karen blew a 0.079 on the field test.


Based on the above, I think it is entirely reasonable that she was placed under arrest and taken to the station for a formal test.


Now I’m not sure of what the procedures are from that point on. Does another officer decide if they continue with the booking or release her?


Bottom line is this officer and or the SLOPD may have been out to get Karen, but I don’t see any evidence of it. I hope Dan Karen and Josh continue to investigate this and if they uncover any evidence I hope to see it.


Pelican1

There are legal remedies for false arrest. Let the judicial system do it’s job, and if it’s determined that Ms. Velie’s civil rights were in anyway violated she can appeal as well as sue any contributing agencies

Lets not rush to judgement.


JordanJ

Bottom line is that the police report is trumped up. There is no way that her eyes were red and watery but the LE always write that in their DUI report no matter what. They do it because they lie.


I know people who were at that bridge class and saw Velie 10 minutes before she was stopped. There was a doctor, a former senator, several attorneys, etc and they all say the same thing. She was speaking fine, walking fine and she looked fine. Since her BAC was obviously going down no one can claim that she had another drink minutes after they all saw her or her BAC would have been going up. This cop lied on his report and then a phone call was made early the next morning. The cops know who they called and so do I. They know the damage that they did with that phone call and it was severe, more than anyone here can imagine or guess about. Eventually it will all be told, I wish I could reveal it now.


This is an honest, true and factual post. Go ahead and give me the thumbs down if you want.


pasovino

Just because she was walking, talking and speaking fine DOES NOT mean she wasn’t legally drunk! Who CARES if a senator was there! She is NOT above the law! If the blood alcohol %was off-then she got screwed-it happens all the time and if not, she is just another drunk driver right at the illegal limit. I Feel bad for her if the meter was wrong but don’t assume conspiracy just because she is an investigative reporter….


Cindy

WTF? She blew a .07 and a .06 according to the police report and they arrested and threw her in jail for a DUI anyway. Read your post and then line it up with these facts. They aren’t trying to claim that she was a .08, they’re claiming that she was drunk anyway at a .07! They made a new law for her as if she is drunker than anyone else at a .07 despite all the people who saw her and say she showed no signs of intoxication. You said “I Feel bad for her if the meter was wrong “. Fact is that they don’t care what their own meter said. According to their own meter, they arrested her below the legal limit and they want to justify it some how.


Boris

You’re just spreading bullshit and inuendo. “I have evidence Obama is Kenyan”. Same bullshit. If you’ve got something to say, say it. Don’t drop hints that you have some bombshell that only you know about. You weren’t at the class. You just don’t know, you are just spreading rumors.


HarryMalone

If the FIELD breathalyzer (which is NOT submissible in court) read .079 and the machine back at the station read .06 that is a huge discrepancy!


This means the FIELD units are calibrated to read HIGH so they can take you in for the REAL test.


Typical SLOPD tactic.


If you know you are not .08 or higher…


NEVER take the FIELD breathalyzer (they are NOT calibrated in your favor and NOT submissible).


NEVER take the roadside sobriety test (where you stand on one leg, etc). You will NEVER pass as they will ALWAYS find something wrong.


ALWAYS (or you will loose your license for a year) submit to ONLY a BLOOD test for your BAC.

A blood test will take longer to get and more time for the alcohol to dissipate and the blood will be kept for evidence and can be retested if need be and could possibly get lost. NONE of that happens with the BREATH test.


murphthesurf

Yes, there was a discrepancy between the field BAC reading and the station BAC reading. 53 minutes had passed by that point.


It is absolutely amazing that you are advising how to game the system in order to beat a DUI rap. This so perfectly encompasses the attitude toward this subject being displayed on this site: Do whatever you can to avoid taking responsibility for your actions.


MarkJames

Harry is correct. No one should ever take the Field Sobriety Test. If they are giving you the test, they have already decided that you’re a DUI. The test is there to be used against you rather than to help the cop make a determination. They will always find a reason that you failed the test, always. Never take the PAS either, you don’t have to. If they ask you to take a field sobriety test, say no thank you, just take me for a blood test. Also when the cop asks you where you’ve been or what you’ve been doing, don’t answer them, you don’t have to. Just ask them why they stopped you and let them give you information but you don’t have to give them any except your papers. Being co-operative will never get you out of a DUI.


Now on the other hand, if you downed your drink before you left the party, then buy time and jack them around. Take all the tests you can (except the pas) and then go to the station and take the breath test but don’t blow hard enough to give them a reading, then eventually explain that you can’t blow hard enough so you guess you will have to take a blood test. All this will take at least an hour and a half and your BAC will drop. 015% during that 1 and one half hour.


Cindy

murph – Stop disseminating false information. The pas is the last part of a FS test. It is given right before the arrest is made (as it was done in Karen’s case) and that occurred 25 minutes before she blew a .06. Time of pas test and arrest on the street was 10:13 – time of .06 blow was at 10:38. A .079 to a .06 in 25 minutes isn’t possible. I already spoke with an expert acquaintance who testifies in court about these things


Someone also mentioned that she went from a .07 to a .06 within minutes (like 5 minutes) when taking the legal test at the station. She didn’t just skip past the .069-.061 and drop her BAC like that in a matter of 5 or even 10 or even 30 minutes naturally. Something here is very wrong, I already spoke to an expert who testifies in cases like this. The 53 minutes that you refer to are from the moment she was stopped until she blew the .06%. this means that she could not have been above a .075% when she was stopped and she was only 2 miles from her place of original departure so she couldn’t have been driving at a .08 at any time.


Moderator

Enough round and round and round.


Flogging dead livestock and repeating the comment same over and over and you will have a unsuccessful time.


Repeat offenders will have there account closed and future account attempts.


? or ! admin@calcoastnews.com


Moderator

Everyone.

Circular debate is circular and is without end.


murphthesurf

I agree, though I do find it interesting that in this case Cindy is quoting “new” information that doesn’t seem to be supported by any sources.


Moderator

And there you go again, new info lets go around and around again.


You too can have you own website and do whatever, It’s Free.


The last word is not available.


Comments questions admin@calcoastnews.com


blondehare

Karen lose her voice box.. I use to answer for an ex boyfriend all the time.. Someone finally said.. what did he my ex lose his voice..Called me on it… This all stinks of retaliation…Karen V is well known to all police.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wXkI4t7nuc


Cindy

Here is a TRUE story as told to me recently by a local attorney. He had a client with a DUI at a high BAC, something like a point .14. The client insisted that the blood test was wrong because the client insisted that he had 2 beers over 2 hours. The attorney had the blood re-tested and it still came back at the .14.

The client insisted that it couldn’t be his blood and it must have been tampered with. The client was so convincing that the attorney had the client take a blood test and then had the blood matched to the blood that contained his BAC sample. It turned out that the blood sample that was used for DUI purposes wasn’t the clients blood that had been taken at the hospital !


Now how could that possibly happen since they put your name on the sample as soon as they take the draw? BUT IT DID HAPPEN RIGHT HERE IN SLO! At least according to a local attorney who has an office near the court house.


Cindy

Looks like somebody around here doesn’t believe a prominent local attorney when he tells it like it happened. What I expressed here is exactly what he told me.


By the way – He also told me that the lab that the SLOPD uses is flawed and that re-testing blood at another lab will always, YES ALWAYS come back at least one point lower on a BAC blood test. Sometimes it’s even more than a point lower.


PaulJones

HEY, I just read the report that the SLOPD sent to the city. Those numbers don’t work. The PAS test is clearly flawed but since it doesn’t count, that doesn’t really bother me.


Here is the big problem. The two blows at the station were administered literally within a few short minutes of each other. Certainly within 10 minutes but it’s more likely that it was within 3 minutes of each other. NOBODY but NOBODY can go from a .07 to a .06 in a matter of a few minutes. Either the person who wrote that report made a mistake when he said she was a .07 on the first blow or the machine is malfunctioning. That’s a fact, ask any expert.


pasovino

Not EVERYONE knows or CARES who Karen Velie is-The officer had no clue-She is not above the law and any desperate attempt to trump up a conspiracy theory is just that- Karen got a DUI….Deal with it-


MaryMalone

CCN has covered local police scandals. If the officer didn’t know who Velie is, perhaps he hasn’t been paying attention to current events.


Even if he did know who she is and CCN’s coverage of local police scandals, that doesn’t mean he did, or did not, treat her differently than any other person he pulled over…or whether or not someone from the station called to clue him in on the role Velie plays in local news coverage.


In other words, there are a lot of unknowns.


However, clearly it is highly unusual for someone to get a DUI for blowing a 0.06 on the breathalyzer.


sloslo

I usually like most of the CCN articles, but this article seems to leave a lot of facts out or misreport them.


This article says “Officer Josh Walsh placed Velie under arrest after her blood alcohol test showed a .06.”


However, according to the police report released by SLOPD, Walsh placed her under arrest after her blood alcohol test showed a .079, not .06. The test that read .06 occurred at the station AFTER he placed her under arrest, not before. Is Velie claiming she blew a .06 before the arrest and Walsh misreported it, or is this a factual error in this article?


Also, the article states witnesses saw Velie only drink one glass, but did the reporters not think to ask their colleague Velie how many glasses she actually consumed? She told Congaton it was at least two glasses. Why wasn’t this fact included in the article, instead of the lower and less accurate number from witness observations? It is unlikely that one glass would yield a .079 BAC.


MaryMalone

I don’t know what role the body weight and size of the person being tested plays in the blood-alcohol findings. However, as I have said before, Velie quite a small person.


Cindy

sloslo – Something here is very wrong and not even a possibility. The legal breathalyzer test that was given at the station registered a .06 at 10:38 PM. The test at the station is considered reliable and everything is recorded on that machine, time stamped etc. The hand held test that the officer gave her in the field is not considered reliable and is not a legal test that can be used as evidence. The field breath test occurred right before her arrest at 10:13 PM. It isn’t possible for her (or anyone’s no matter, age, sex, health or weight) BAC to drop almost 2 full points in 25 minutes. Alcohol dissipates from our system at a rate of 0.015 per hour. Any professional will tell you that. When Officer Walsh saw what her real BAC was and it was evident that even working the time frame backwards, she could not at any time have been a .08BAC, then he was supposed to release her rather than throw her in jail. This case CAN NOT be won in court and if anything, she was guilty of an illegal lane change, a ticket that he didn’t even bother to give her!


Boris

It may not be considered reliable by you, but it was reliable enough to put her ass in jail.


Don’t drink and drive, it’s real simple. And true alcoholics will also know all the little tricks to game the system, except that for the most part, it doesn’t work.