Mark Swanitz

Swanitz

Santa Ynez Valley Union High School Principal Mark Swanitz was sentenced to three years probation Tuesday after pleading no contest in his misdemeanor DUI case. 

Swanitz was charged last fall with two misdemeanor counts of driving under the influence, and an allegation of having a blood alcohol content over 0.08 percent at the time of the incident. 

In exchange for pleading no contest, Swanitz was sentenced to three years of informal probation. Unlike formal probation reserved for felony offenses, Swanitz can serve probation without having to be supervised by an officer.

Swanitz's probation terms include no consumption of alcohol for a one-year period and fine payment of $1,690. 

The Department of Motor Vehicles will determine the status of Swanitz's driver's license, according to Deputy District Attorney Austin Ingalls, who prosecuted the case.

Reports from the California Highway Patrol indicate that the crash occurred at about 4:20 p.m. Oct. 21. Swanitz was reportedly traveling westbound on Highway 246 in his 2004 Chevrolet when an oncoming driver, Rafael Ramos, turned directly in front of him. 

Ramos began turning left, failed to see Swanitz's vehicle approaching on his left side and made an unsafe turn directly in front of him, causing the collision, the CHP said. During the investigation, officials learned Swanitz was under the influence of alcohol, and he was subsequently booked into custody.

"He just didn't want to fight it anymore, so we're not going to trial," said attorney William Redell, who represented Swanitz throughout his proceedings.

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"I want to emphasize again, that he didn't cause the accident; there's a perception out there in the community that he did," he added.

If Swanitz successfully completes terms of his probation, a 60-day sentence in Santa Barbara County Jail will be suspended, according to Ingalls. 

Swanitz's sentence is standard for a first-time misdemeanor noninjury DUI offense, said Redell, who added the traffic collision "wasn't taken into account at all because he didn't cause it." 

"I can tell you that the requirements from the school were much more severe," Redell said. "He was punished pretty significantly for this, and anyone who thinks that he's not getting punished by the full extent of the law is mistaken." 

The remaining DUI count was dismissed as part of the deal.

Gina Kim covers crime and courts for Santa Maria Times. Follow her on Twitter @gina_k210

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