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Sheriff's executive charged with DUI

September 22, 2007|Stuart Pfeifer | Times Staff Writer

Prosecutors on Friday filed misdemeanor drunk driving charges against a top-ranking Los Angeles County sheriff's executive who was arrested for allegedly driving his county-issued car while intoxicated.

Division Chief Michael Aranda, 62, who has served nearly 40 years with the department, was arrested June 12 after a late-night traffic stop on the 14 Freeway near Acton.

As chief of the department's Technical Services Division, Aranda supervised the crime lab and computer systems.

Sheriff Lee Baca placed Aranda on paid administrative leave two weeks ago after learning that the state Department of Motor Vehicles had suspended Aranda's driver's license.

Aranda has since agreed to resign from the department. He will remain on paid leave until his employment ends Oct. 16, said sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore.

A 911 call started a chain of events that led to Aranda's arrest, officials said. California Highway Patrol officers started looking for Aranda's county- issued car, a black 2007 Chevrolet Impala, after someone called the emergency line and reported that the car was being driven erratically. Officers stopped Aranda near Crown Valley Road and arrested him because he appeared to be intoxicated, a CHP spokesman said.

The CHP, Sheriff's Department and district attorney's office all refused to disclose the results of a test of Aranda's blood-alcohol content.

The decision about whether to file charges against Aranda took more than three months. The case initially was reviewed by the district attorney's Justice System Integrity Division, which decided that the Lancaster branch office should handle it. The justice unit typically handles allegations of criminal misconduct by peace officers while on duty.

(Aranda was off-duty at the time of the arrest. Like dozens of other sheriff's executives, he had been issued a county car to drive to and from work.)

Last week, the district attorney's office, seeking to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, transferred the case to Newhall. Aranda had once served as captain of the sheriff's Lancaster station, and his deputies frequently interacted with prosecutors in the Lancaster court, said Sandi Gibbons, a district attorney spokeswoman.

Aranda is scheduled to appear for arraignment Oct. 10 at the Newhall courthouse.

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stuart.pfeifer@latimes.com

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