Is Third Time the Charm for Local TV Anchor Arrested for DUI and Assault on Officers?
Santa Barbara – In a clear demonstration of the value in having the right connections if you’re arrested for multiple crimes, KCOY-TV’s anchorwoman and popular local celebrity Paula Lopez—50-year-old wife of recently-retired Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Frank Ochoa, long-renowned for his proclivity for sentencing those convicted in his courtroom to maximum California State Prison terms—was arrested on the evening of September 6th on charges of DUI, evading arrest, resisting arrest, and assault upon two cops attempting to take her into custody.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department Public Information Officer Kelly Hoover has made only a succinct and terse announcement about the arrest with no online posting of details, leading local media to suspect that Lopez’s connection to the judicial system may be affording her a degree of privacy not afforded to any other arrestee in recent memory. Perhaps supporting this suspicion is the remarkable fact that in spite of the $5,000 bail set upon her booking at Santa Barbara County Jail, Hoover reported “she did not have to post bail but signed a promise to appear.”
Lopez was arrested at approximately 8:00 p.m., following citizen reports of a vehicle traveling southbound in the northbound lanes of U.S. 101 north of Santa Barbara. Witness reports soon indicated that a pedestrian had been struck by a vehicle, whereupon firefighters and paramedics responded promptly and were first on the scene, and discovered Lopez’s silver Prius in the parking lot of nearby Sandpiper Golf Course. Witnesses at the scene reported the driver of the vehicle had crawled under some nearby bushes.
By the time CHP and SBSD Deputies arrived a short time thereafter, firefighters had been successful in extricating Lopez from her hiding spot. When deputies attempted to determine her level of intoxication, she physically assaulted both the CHP and SBSD personnel. Moments later, Lopez was in handcuffs and headed to Santa Barbara County Jail, where she was booked on DUI and multiple charges of assault upon a police officer.
This is Lopez’s third encounter with law enforcement within the past two years. In early 2013, she was the subject of an intensive search by SBSD air and ground units, reputed to have cost the county several hundred thousand dollars. Just months later, in July 2013, she was arrested for misdemeanor DUI, charges which were quietly dismissed pursuant to her enrollment in the county’s misdemeanor diversion program.
Lopez’s arrest immediately created concerns for Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley, who frequently proclaims her dedication to protecting the community from offenders posing any potential risk to public safety, and demonstrates that passion by routinely charging arrestees with every possible relevant infraction. On September 10th Dudley announced that her office will avoid the appearance of any conflict of interest, declaring that she “won’t be involved in the case at all, instead putting supervision in the hands of a North County chief deputy district attorney.”
Whether or not Paula Lopez’s local “celebrity” or her marital connection to the Santa Barbara Superior Court system will have any bearing upon the charges she now faces remains to be determined.