A district judge charged with DUI and careless driving following a one-vehicle crash in June pleaded to a lesser charge of DWAI on Tuesday, and won't spend a day in jail if he successfully completes a year on probation.
Twenty-First Judicial District Judge Lance Timbreza — who cut a contrite and humble figure in the courtroom of visiting Judge Jonathan Pototsky — entered a plea of guilty of driving while ability impaired, with the assistance of local defense attorney Steve Laiche.
After accepting the plea, Pototsky ordered the minimum sentence possible in the case — two days of jail time, which is suspended if Timbreza successfully completes one year of unsupervised probation. He also must complete 36 hours of public service, and pay a $200 fine plus additional court costs and fees.
Laiche argued that Timbreza should be treated as an "ordinary citizen," and with no prior criminal record should receive a sentence commensurate with other similar defendants.
"This case is against Lance Timbreza, not Judge Lance Timbreza," Laiche argued.
Judge Pototsky — appointed by the Supreme Court of Colorado to hear the special case, and normally sits on the Garfield County Court bench — did in the end issue the lighter sentence often reserved for first-time offenders.
Pototsky did, however, concede that it isn't possible to divorce Timbreza from the important position that he holds.
"There is no separating the two," Pototsky said, further making the point by notably addressing Timbreza as "Judge" — out of "respect" for "the title that you have earned."
"But you did violate the public trust," Pototsky admonished.
Pototsky said he believed Timbreza had "taken responsibility for his actions" and was "remorseful," citing his actions since the June 15 crash, which have included signing up for alcohol treatment and not contesting the revocation of his driver's license.
Ninth Judicial Assistant District Attorney Ben Sollars was brought in to prosecute the case.
On Tuesday, Sollars informed the court of a number of factors that he considered "aggravated" in the case.
Sollars said Timbreza drank enough alcohol the afternoon of June 15 to be described as "lit" by people who attended a pool party a short distance from the crash site along 24 1/2 Road near G Road.
He said someone considered "professional" even tried to intervene, and get Timbreza to not get behind the wheel of his SUV, despite living just a couple miles from the party.
"Most of us don't get that luxury," Sollars said.
He also considered aggravating the fact that Timbreza crossed into oncoming traffic, narrowly missing two vehicles traveling in the opposite lane.
Additionally, he said Timbreza refused breath or blood-alcohol tests after his arrest, and as a member of the criminal justice community — "where integrity is of significant importance" — Sollars called Timbreza's case "a black mark for all of us in the profession."
Timbreza addressed the judge in prepared remarks, saying he accepts "full responsibility" and that he "remains grateful that no one was hurt."
Timbreza told the judge he was "profoundly disappointed in myself" to be in his current position but vowed, "I will not be again."
After the hearing, Timbreza noted the unique situation.
"I think the judge was professional. He considered the facts and circumstances, and I'm certainly grateful for the fact that I've been able to take responsibility and accountability," Timbreza said. "Today is here, and I can move forward and begin to serve the sentence that the judge imposed."