Not guilty pleas were entered Monday for a Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District principal who was arrested for allegedly driving under the influence, according to the Santa Barbara County District Attorney's Office.

Mark Evan Swanitz, was charged earlier this month with two misdemeanor counts of driving under the influence. He also faces an allegation of having a blood alcohol content over 0.08 percent at the time of the incident.

Swanitz was not present, but his attorney Billy Redell entered pleas on his behalf, according to prosecutor John Mackinnon. Defendants facing misdemeanor charges typically do not have to appear for their cases in court, unless it is ordered by a judge. 

Swanitz is due back in court Dec. 12 for a readiness and settlement conference, according to the District Attorney's Office. 

According to the California Highway Patrol, 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, 45, of San Juan, Puerto Rico, turned directly in front of him. 

Ramos stopped his 2017 Hyundai facing a northerly direction in a driveway west of Skytt Mesa Drive and began to slowly accelerate and turn left, according to the CHP. Ramos failed to see Swanitz's vehicle approaching on his left side and made an unsafe turn directly into the path of the Chevrolet, causing a collision, the CHP said.

No parties sustained any injuries from the collision.

During the investigation, officials learned that Swanitz was under the influence of alcohol, and he was subsequently booked into County Jail. 

The Santa Ynez Valley Union High School board of education members have met twice in closed sessions to discuss the incident but have taken no action at this time, as Swanitz must be allowed his due process, Superintendent Scott Cory said last week.

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

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