A special prosecutor has charged an off-duty North Platte police officer with drunken driving in an April 19 traffic collision.
Sarah Jones, 28, of North Platte waived her first appearance in Lincoln County Court on misdemeanor counts of first-offense reckless driving and first-offense driving under the influence of alcohol with a blood-alcohol content of 0.15 or greater.
Police Chief Daniel Hudson said Jones, who had been scheduled for a Thursday court appearance, has been off street duty since the early morning two-vehicle crash on U.S. Highway 83 near the North Platte River bridge.
She was placed on a week’s administrative leave after the accident and has performed only nonpublic “administrative support” office duties since then, Hudson said.
Civil service rules and the police union’s collective bargaining agreement, he added, forbid disciplinary action that would withhold pay while Jones’ court case is pending.
“If we’re going to pay an employee, we should get work out of an employee,” Hudson said of Jones’ current assignment.
Lincoln County sheriff’s deputies who responded to the April 19 accident found a pickup truck lying on its side and a sedan with heavy front-end damage.
Chief Deputy Roland Kramer said the pickup’s occupants were uninjured, while Jones, who was driving the sedan, was treated later at Great Plains Health for non-life-threatening injuries.
Deputies conducted a field sobriety test, which indicated Jones was driving under the influence, Kramer said. They took her to the Lincoln County Detention Center for a blood-alcohol test before releasing Jones into medical supervision, he said.
Jones had a blood-alcohol level of 0.185 when tested, according to the formal complaint filed Monday by special prosecutor Randy Fair, an Ogallala lawyer who serves as Keith County attorney. People with a 0.08 reading or higher are considered intoxicated under state law.
If convicted on both charges, Jones could be fined $500 and sentenced to up to three months in jail on the reckless-driving charge. A first-offense DUI charge carries a potential $500 fine, one-year license suspension and jail term ranging from seven to 60 days.
Lincoln County Public Defender Robert Lindemeier, who is representing Jones, filed her signed waiver of her first appearance Tuesday.
Because Jones is a peace officer within Lincoln County, the County Attorney’s Office and County Judge Kent Turnbull have recused themselves from her case. County Judge-designate Joel Jay has not yet been sworn in.
A visiting county judge will preside over Jones’ case, but that judge had not been assigned as of Thursday, according to the County Court office.