Second DUI arrest will result in jail time for Baca County judge

A Baca County judge will be sentenced to jail when she pleads guilty in June to a DUI in Kansas.

Debra Gunkel, 62, pleaded guilty Thursday in Prowers County Court to violating the terms of her probation in a 2018 DUI case by committing another DUI offense in Kansas on Aug. 17, 2019, according to the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, a special prosecutor in the case. She’s expected to plead guilty in Kansas as part of her Colorado plea agreement.

The second DUI arrest will result in “mandatory” jail time for Gunkel, according to a news release.

Gunkel was arrested by the Prowers County Sheriff’s Office on Jan. 14, 2018. She was driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.137. On Oct. 26, 2018, she pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and received a deferred sentence.

The conviction could have been erased if she successfully completed two years of probation.

“No one is above the law — not law enforcement, not elected officials, not prosecutors and not judges,” District Attorney George Brauchler said in the release. “This defendant, someone who has sat in judgment of numerous drunk drivers who appeared in her courtroom, was offered a second chance and a vehicle for rehabilitation. She chose to squander that opportunity. She will pay the consequences.”

Gunkel serves as a part-time judge in the far southeastern Colorado county, which abuts Kansas and Oklahoma.

Gunkel was arrested outside Tribune, Kan., on Aug. 17 on suspicion of driving with an open container, DUI, failing to use a required interlock device and speeding, according to an arrest report.

“Her probation in the Prowers County case was revoked in October 2019,” according to the DA’s news release. “When she pleaded guilty last week, the court revoked the deferred judgment and entered the DUI conviction.”

The Colorado courts system is expected to address Gunkel’s status as a judge when the Kansas case concludes.

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