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San Carlos couple get jail for drunken drive home with kids

 | Published on 2/3/2011


REDWOOD CITY -- A San Carlos couple was convicted Wednesday of felony child endangerment for a drunken drive home from Half Moon Bay during which they stopped twice on the road to drink more beer, a prosecutor said.

After police pulled over James Lee, 54, for rolling through a stop sign Jan. 22 in San Carlos, they found 14 empty beer cans and an empty bottle of rum, said San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe. Also in the car was his 43-year-old wife, Wendy Lee, and the couple's three sons and one daughter, who range in age from 2 to 8 years old. Both parents were so intoxicated they had trouble standing up after police asked them to get out of the vehicle. James Lee's blood-alcohol level was 0.25, or three times the legal limit of 0.08, and his wife's was 0.24, Wagstaffe said.

After pleading no contest in San Mateo County Superior Court to misdemeanor drunken driving and one count of child endangerment, James Lee was sentenced to six months in jail. Wendy Lee also pleaded no contest to child endangerment and got a 45-day sentence.

It was not clear Wednesday who is currently caring for the children. Wagstaffe said Child Protective Services typically takes custody when parents are arrested for felony child endangerment. The children are sometimes returned to their parents after the arrest, however. Police said the family went to the beach in Half Moon Bay and drank heavily while there. On the way back, one of the children later told police, James Lee pulled the van over twice in order to drink more beer.

About 5 p.m., police received reports of a reckless driver on Laurel Street, and a responding officer spotted the family's van. James Lee rolled through a stop sign, almost hit another car and was pulled over. After stopping the couple, police learned that James Lee had a suspended license because of a drunken-driving conviction and was not supposed to be with his wife under the conditions of a restraining order.

"They are being accountable for child endangerment," Wagstaffe said. "The children are under the protection of the court now and if or when the parents get them back."

Wendy Lee is out of custody on $25,000 bail and due to begin her sentence March 19. James Lee is in San Mateo County jail.