Drunk driver going to prison
It wasn’t his first time, but after years of eluding sentencing, Luis E. Esparza struck again.
The 23-year-old South Lake Tahoe man was sentenced Thursday to two years in a California state prison for injuring a woman while driving drunk and leading police on a high-speed chase. Esparza was arrested on almost identical charges in 1994. But, after pleading guilty to driving under the influence with a blood alcohol level of .19, and resisting arrest, he failed to appear at sentencing.
Esparza was taken in custody May 15 after he hit the rear of Paula Kay Price’s car while she drove south on Glenwood Street. The collision spun Price’s car sideways. She suffered minor head and neck injuries. Esparza did not stop.
South Lake Tahoe Police Officer Rob Heindl tried to stop Esparza on Fountain Street, but he didn’t comply and the chase was on with Officer Mike Dente joining in. The chase reached speeds in excess of 50 mph. Even when the hood of Esparza’s car came up totally blocking his view he continued. The car chase ended on Lodi Avenue when Esparza crashed his car into a culvert blowing one of his tires. The officers boxed him in, and Esparza still attempted to flee on foot.
Esparza blood alcohol level was .31
Despite appeals by his defense attorney and mother, who cited alcoholism as the sole reason of Esparza’s criminal activity, Judge Jerald Lasarow agreed with the prosecution and sentenced Esparza to state prison. Esparza also was ordered to pay $996.56 for damage to one of the police department’s vehicles. Restitution for Price’s injuries and car was left open by the judge.
Judge Lasarow urged Esparza to take advantage of the alcohol treatment programs available in prison.
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