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An expert in ankle monitoring maintained Friday during a probation violation that soap star Jensen Buchanan was drinking after she was released from County Jail between the weeks of late December and early January.

Buchanan was convicted and sentenced to jail time and probation for her role in a DUI crash that almost killed Bradley Asolas in 2016 while having a blood alcohol content level of 0.34. She served about a month and a half of jail time before being released at the end of November.

Her case is back in Santa Maria Superior Court after authorities alleged that she violated probation when her ankle monitor reportedly detected a blood alcohol content levels of 0.18 between Dec. 29 and Jan. 11. She was arrested by Oxnard Police and booked into Ventura County Jail the next day.

Asolas, the victim, along with his wife, Sandy, were also present for Friday's hearing.

A sheriff's deputy, a SCRAM (ankle monitor) case manager/installer and chief technician all testified Friday about the process of placing SCRAM and research studies on its functionality. The hearing resumes March 16.

Both sheriff's Deputy Aaron Gray and case manager Juan Vega said they never noticed Buchanan visibly intoxicated nor did they smell alcohol on her breath, under defense attorney Josh Lynn's questioning.

Gray testified that he spoke with Buchanan on Jan. 12, over the phone, while she was staying at a hotel after being evacuated during the Montecito mudslides. Probation examined her SCRAM, which tested positive for alcohol, he testified under prosecutor Chrystal Joseph's questioning. 

"The Oxnard Police and probation were there, and Jensen said she hadn't drank, but then she paused and said, "Oh, my God, there's chocolates in front of me," and indicated that there was liquor in them, Gray said. 

Mark Wojcik, chief technology officer and vice president of engineering at Alcohol Monitoring System, was next to testify.

During his testimony, Wojcik confirmed that the purpose of SCRAM is to detect whether or not someone drank alcohol, and that there are multiple ways to measure alcohol concentration readings on SCRAM -- transdermal alcohol concentration, blood alcohol concentration and breath alcohol concentration. 

The more someone drinks, the higher the transdermal and blood alcohol concentration levels, said Wojcik, who added that measures can vary from person to person. In order to confirm a drinking event, the monitor must show three consecutive readings above the threshold of 0.02 on a transdermal level, which is equivalent to someone consuming three drinks or more -- a low level of drinking, he said. 

When Joseph asked how credible SCRAM research is when detecting the accuracy readings of alcohol, Wojcik confirmed that "SCRAM is a reliable method of determining whether someone drank or not."

He added, "While no technology is perfect and can have mechanical errors or wrong calculations, it's designed to be fail-safe -- it either detects low levels of alcohol or not at all," he said.

For Buchanan's alcohol reading levels, dated Nov. 2017 to Jan. 2018, her transdermal curve began spiking on Dec. 22 at 9:32 p.m. and ended at 8:45 a.m. on Christmas morning, Wojcik said. She had three different peak level readings, which met the criteria to confirm that she was drinking.

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The monitor detected more drinking events Dec. 23, then on Dec. 29 through Jan. 2, he noted.

"There were multiple instances of liquor consumption that produced this curve," he testified. "It doesn't matter if she said she didn't drink; there's no other explanation." 

On those days, Buchanan's levels estimated that between four to five drinks would have been consumed, Wojcik said. 

Lynn questioned Wojcik as to why he never considered Buchanan's SCRAM was malfunctioning, as it continued to detect low levels of alcohol even days after she was arrested on Jan. 12, and had the SCRAM removed.

"What reason would it have to be reading this way other than the fact that it's malfunctioning?" said Lynn, to which Wojcik answered that the transdermal detection often delays results up to 48 hours.

Lynn also argued the bracelet was malfunctioning and underreporting alcohol detection by almost 50 percent, which Wojcik did not deny.

Testimony resumes March 16. 

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


Courts/Public Safety Reporter