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Pima court admin arrested on DUI charge handed deputy credit card instead of license

Lisa Royal, the administrator of Pima County's Justice Court system and a former justice of the peace, was arrested on suspicion of DUI after a breath test indicated she had a blood alcohol level of 0.115; she couldn't complete field sobriety tests; and handed a Pima County Sheriff's Department deputy a credit card instead of her driver's license.

Royal, 60, was arrested about 1:30 a.m. near La Cholla Boulevard and Orange Grove Road on Jan. 1.

According to a PCSD report, she was pulled over by a deputy participating in a DUI Task Force after he saw one of her headlights was out. The deputy said Royal had red, watery and bloodshot eyes and her breath smelled like alcohol.

Royal said she had consumed alcohol earlier in the evening and she presented a credit card to the deputy instead of a driver's license, the deputy wrote in his report.

"She told me she had been good because it was New Year's and she only had one drink," the deputy wrote.

The deputy wrote that when he asked Royal to walk to the back of her car, she walked to the front and began to look at her headlight. When he told her he was going to conduct a DUI investigation, "she told me that she knew exactly what was going on because she worked at the court," according to the report.

"When she got out of the vehicle, she was staggering as she was walking. She could not complete the Walk and Turn test or the One Leg Stand test," the report stated.

During those tests, Royal wasn't following his instructions, the deputy wrote. She walked into him at one point and into the back of her vehicle at another, according to the report.

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The deputy also wrote that Royal failed the horizontal gaze nystagmus test and a preliminary breath test indicated she had a 0.115 blood alcohol level. The legal limit in Arizona is 0.08. Royal allowed another deputy to draw her blood to be tested later, according to the deputy.

During an interview with the deputy, Royal said she'd had two drinks between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. She also said on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being "falling-down drunk," she felt like she was a two, but at another point she said she wasn't feeling the effects of the alcohol, the report stated. She also said she felt it was OK for her to be driving at a two on the scale.

"Ms. Royal stated she was on a new diet and drank two beers. They were low alcohol (India Pale Ales). She stated that they were 4 percent alcohol. She advised they were Lagunitas 90 calorie," the deputy wrote. "She stated she had not really eaten because of her new diet."

After Royal was briefly put into handcuffs then cited on suspicion of DUI, a friend picked her up at the scene. She was given a verbal warning for the light violation.

While Royal was arrested overnight on New Year's Eve, online court records did not include any reference to her case for nearly two weeks after her arrest.

Monday, Jan. 13, information about the case appeared on the Justice Court's website after news reports on the incident were published by the Green Valley News and TucsonSentinel.com.

Royal was Green Valley's Justice of the Peace for more than four years. She left the court in August 2017 to resume her former position as Pima County Consolidated Justice Court administrator.

A spokeswoman for Pima County Superior Court said Royal notified Kyle Bryson, Pima County Superior Court's presiding judge, of her arrest on Jan. 2. Royal continues in her position at the court and her case has been transferred to Oro Valley Magistrate Court, the spokeswoman said.

Royal is scheduled to appear in court Jan. 28.

Adam Watters, presiding judge for Pima County Consolidated Justice Court, said Royal retains her position because she is innocent until proven guilty.

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"Nothing's been proven. It's just a charge. It's evidence of nothing," Watters said.

Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Charlene Pesquiera was originally assigned Royal's case, but transferred it because of the conflict of interest, Watters said. The Oro Valley judge assigned to the case may also opt to transfer it, he said.

"It might've been better if it had been transferred to another county," Watters said. "It could be problematic because Lisa has been in Pima County for so long and she was a JP."

Royal retired as court administrator in 2012, signed an 18-month contract to stay in the position, then was appointed Green Valley Justice of the Peace in January 2013, after Gail Wight resigned mid-term. Royal, a Republican, was elected to a four-year term in November 2014.

She did not respond to cell phone and email messages left for her Friday and Monday.

Prior to her New Year's arrest, Royal was ticketed by Tucson police for "obedience required" — a violation that generally indicates disregarding a traffic signal, such as a stop sign — on December 15 in the 1900 block of North Stone Avenue, between Grant Road and Drachman Street. Tucson City Court records show that she paid $130 in fines and fees related to the ticket on January 2.

Following the holiday, court filings in other cases in Pima County Justice Court have been slow to appear in the online system, with some taking several days to be listed. The records indicate that the documents in Royal's case were filed on Jan. 2, despite not appearing until Jan. 13.

This report was first published by the Green Valley News.
TucsonSentinel.com’s Dylan Smith contributed to this report.

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