Friday, June 19, 2009

Trial starts in felony DUI case

Hailey woman also charged with being ‘persistent violator’

Express Staff Writer

Jury trial started Wednesday in Blaine County 5th District Court for a Hailey woman charged with felony driving under the influence and being a "persistent violator," a crime punishable in Idaho by up to life in prison.

According to Blaine County court records, Bonnie Lee Nochta is charged with her fifth DUI infraction. Court records state that she has four prior convictions, one in 1995, two in 1999 and one in 2002. Records further state that Nochta was born in 1959.

The latest DUI charge against Nochta was filed last September.

Jury selection was started Wednesday morning. Testimony from family members, former family members and arresting officer Shelly Pharis, a former Hailey police officer, was heard Wednesday afternoon and Thursday.

The trial is expected to last three days. Judge Barry Wood is the presiding judge because of a disqualification motion filed by the Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney's Office against Judge Robert J. Elgee. Nochta is represented by Ketchum attorney Brian Elkins.

Under Idaho law, a person can be charged with felony DUI if the person has two prior DUI convictions within the last 10 years. Felony DUI is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The persistent violator statute can be applied against a person who has two prior felony convictions. According to statute, a person convicted as a persistent violator can be sentenced to up to life in prison. The statute requires a minimum sentence of five years in prison.

Terry Smith:

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