Wahl pleads guilty to DUI

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SANDPOINT — The former executive director of the Festival of Sandpoint has pleaded guilty to driving under the influence, court records show.

Diana Marion Bendix Wahl entered a plea to the misdemeanor criminal offense on Oct. 2, during a civil court proceeding regarding the status of her driving privileges.

Wahl, 56, was arrested outside her home after her driving raised the suspicions of a Sandpoint Police officer on patrol on Aug. 11, according to a police affidavit. Wahl was unable to complete field sobriety tests and was further charged with resisting arrest after refusing to obey the officer’s commands.

A blood test indicated that the concentration of alcohol in Wahl’s system was 0.20, which is more than twice the legal limit to drive of 0.08, according to court records.

Wahl was subsequently fired from her position as the Festival’s executive director, a post she held for 21 years.

Deputy Prosecutor Nick Lepire recommended the standard punishment for a first-offense DUI charge — three days on the sheriff’s inmate labor program, a substance abuse violation, compliance with treatment recommendations and a $100 reimbursement to the Idaho State Police lab.

Wahl’s defense counsel, Coeur d’Alene attorney Michael G. Palmer, said his client was celebrating the completion of the annual summer concert series on Lake Pend Oreille and made the poor choice to drive home.

“This offense has cost her that position so she’s currently looking for other work, which may actually have her relocating out of the area,” Palmer said.

Wahl declined to address the court before the sentence was imposed.

“I’ll rely on the comments of my attorney,” Wahl said.

Judge Tera Harden noted Wahl has at least four prior DUI convictions.

“When I look at the history provided to me it is incredibly troubling to this court,” Harden said.

The passage of time between her 2006 DUI conviction and her most recent arrest meant that she could not be charged with a felony offense.

Harden sentenced Wahl to 120 days in jail with 100 days suspended and 10 days to serve at the discretion of the court or her probation officer if she violates the terms of her community release.

The balance of the custodial sentence — nine days — was converted to 72 hours of work on the sheriff’s labor detail.

“That is more time than generally you would get on first-time DUI offense, but this is not a first-time DUI offense,” Harden said.

Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at kkinnaird@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.

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