WEST JORDAN — A judge ordered a former school bus driver who admitted she was impaired by prescription medication when she got behind the wheel and drove 75 students and teachers on a field trip to serve 10 days in jail.
"This was an extremely dangerous situation," 3rd District Judge William Kendall said Monday, noting the number of panicked 911 calls that came in from passengers on the bus worried about the woman's erratic driving. "You violated the trust of the community."
Stepping up from a recommended sentence of 48 hours of home confinement, Kendall instead sentenced Lycia Kae Martinez, 40, to a year in the Salt Lake County Jail, then suspended all but 10 days. The judge did not waver over the woman's concern that she would lose her new job or her request that she be allowed work release for the sentence.
"You will serve those 10 days in jail," Kendall told Martinez. She has until Friday to report to begin her sentence.
Her apparent brief apology during the hearing was so quiet it couldn't be heard in the courtroom.
Martinez, of Clinton, pleaded guilty in September to DUI, a class A misdemeanor. In exchange for her plea, a class C misdemeanor charge of failure to stay in one lane was dismissed. She admitted to taking prescription medications before she got behind the wheel of a bus full of 67 sixth-grade students and eight teachers from four elementary schools from the Layton area in October 2014.
Martinez's bus was seen swerving between lanes she drove the group from Davis County to the event at BYU. Adults on the bus and other drivers on the road started making panicked 911 calls near 3300 South saying the bus kept drifting into other lanes and was getting dangerously close to other vehicles.
A Utah Highway Patrol trooper spotted the bus near 11000 South and followed it to 12300 South, noting that the bus "drifted back and forth several times over the double white lines and straddled two lanes," the charges state.
The trooper reported that Martinez seemed confused and showed signs of impairment as a field sobriety test was issued.
At the time of Martinez's arrest, investigators found pill bottles in her purse for Clonidine, Cyclobenzaprine, Xanax and Meloxicam. Toxicology tests showed "the presence of Clonidine and (Xanax) in amounts exceeding the upper range of the recommended daily dosage for those substances," according to charging documents.
She resigned from her job as a school bus driver in January.
Prosecutor Breanne Miller opposed the home-confinement recommendation from a pre-sentence report, calling it "the minimum of the minimum." Martinez hasn't shown remorse in the case, Miller argued, and wasn't forthright in the pre-sentence report about a criminal mischief charge she was facing that has since been dismissed.
Martinez also pleaded guilty in April to a count of class B misdemeanor retail theft, Miller noted, an offense committed just two days after the DUI charge was filed.
An emotional Martinez shoved past reporters and ran from the courtroom without comment after the sentence. Her attorney, Brad Schofield, said she has always shown remorse for the risk she caused. Any apparent frustration or anger she has shown during court appearances has been a result of embarrassment.
"I know that she is just grateful no one was hurt in this case," Schofield said. "I don't think it's anger, I think it's embarrassment. It's a high-profile case, obviously, because she's a bus driver."
Martinez was taking unfamiliar medications given to her by a new physician at the time she was arrested, Schofield said. She has since worked with her doctor to reduce the amount of prescription medication she takes, he said.
"This was a prescription drug case, it wasn't like she was out drinking at driving. She was unaware she was impaired at the time," Schofield said.
Martinez's license was suspended in November. She called for a judicial review of the suspension a month later, claiming that reaching for the bus radio may have caused the bus to swerve and saying that she was suffering from a migraine headache at the time. A treatment for the headache that she received the next day caused her to forget much of that had happened on the bus, she claimed.
Martinez's petition was dismissed last month for failure to serve documents to the defendant, the Department of Public Safety Driver License Division, within 120 days of filing her complaint, according to court records.
Schofield said Martinez isn't contesting the suspension further. When she gets her license back, she has no intention of seeking a commercial license of driving a bus again.