Undersheriff Steve Bolts showed signs of drinking, Atascadero police report says

County Undersheriff Steve Bolts had a blood-alcohol level slightly above the legal limit and showed signs he was drunk in field-sobriety tests performed by a police officer, according to an Atascadero Police Department report.

The legal blood-alcohol limit for driving in California is 0.08 percent. Bolts’ was 0.086 percent, according to the report, in a preliminary screening taken June 5, the night that the county Sheriff’s Department’s second-in-command was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving.

Bolts initially denied that he had consumed any alcohol to Officer Matt Chesson, who pulled over the undersheriff along El Camino Real, the report stated.

“Bolts said, ‘No, I haven’t, absolutely not,’ ” Chesson reported about the undersheriff’s response to whether he’d consumed alcoholic beverages.

But after being asked to step out of his car, Chesson said he told Bolts he smelled alcohol on his breath.

The undersheriff admitted to drinking one margarita an hour and a half before he was pulled over about 8:40 that night, according to the report.

He has not yet entered a plea, and the District Attorney’s Office has declared a conflict of interest, so the state Attorney General’s Office will be handling the case, according to local prosecutors.

Chesson reported that he stopped Bolts after seeing him go through a stop sign while driving about 10 mph along San Benito Road in the process of making a right turn onto El Camino Real.

The officer also reportedly saw Bolts cross the double-yellow lines on El Camino Real “and was almost completely in the opposing lane of traffic.”

“The driver corrected his positioning and continued traveling north on El Camino Real,” the report states, referring to Bolts.

After the stop, Bolts allegedly failed balance and vision tests. Bolts’ speech also reportedly was “slightly thick” the report stated.

Chesson stated that he was sent to the area where Bolts was driving after someone anonymously reported a drunken driver.

“Based on all observations of Bolts, I came to the conclusion that he had been driving his vehicle while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage,” Chesson stated.

Bolts consented to a blood test at Twin Cities Community Hospital in Templeton after his arrest, but the results of that test were not in the report and haven’t been made public.

The traffic stop was audio recorded by Atascadero police Sgt. Robert Molle, the report stated.Bolts’ attorney, Chris Casciola, couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.

Bolts, 57, was scheduled for an arraignment in San Luis Obispo Superior Court on Wednesday, but the hearing was postponed to July 21.

The undersheriff was not at Wednesday’s scheduled hearing in Judge Barry T. LaBarbera’s courtroom and was represented by Casciola.

Bolts, as well as other officials in the Sheriff’s Department, have worked closely with the DA’s Office, which is why the conflict of interest was declared, said Chief Deputy District Attorney Jerret Gran.

On the night of the incident, an anonymous tipster identified Bolts by name, rank and license plate number, Atascadero Police Chief Jim Mulhall has said.

Preliminary and later investigation revealed that Bolts might have been coming from a social event, Mulhall said.

Bolts is taking a previously scheduled unpaid vacation from the Sheriff’s Department, and he is expected to return to his position in late July, said Rob Bryn, the Sheriff’s Department spokesman.