April 23, 2008 / 1:18 AM / 10 years ago

Bon Jovi guitarist pleads guilty to drunken driving

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Richie Sambora, lead guitarist for the rock band Bon Jovi, was sentenced to three years probation on Tuesday after pleading guilty to driving drunk, prosecutors said.

Richie Sambora is shown in this Laguna Beach Police's Department booking photo released March 26, 2008. The Bon Jovi lead guitarist has been arrested for investigation of driving under the influence of alcohol. REUTERS/Laguna Beach Police Department/Handout

Sambora entered his guilty plea to one count of driving with a blood alcohol level above California’s legal limit of .08 just hours after he was charged in the case, which stemmed from his arrest in March.

The 49-year-old rocker was also ordered by a judge in Orange County, south of Los Angeles, to attend three months of alcohol awareness classes, pay court costs and stay off drugs and alcohol during his probation.

He was not in court for the plea and sentence hearing and was represented by his attorney.

Sambora was charged earlier on Tuesday with two misdemeanor counts of driving under the influence of alcohol and with driving with a blood alcohol level above California’s legal limit of 0.08 percent.

The guitarist registered a blood alcohol level of 0.13 percent when Laguna Beach police stopped him for weaving across lanes in his black Hummer and he faced a possible six months in jail if convicted on all of the charges at a trial.

Prosecutors rejected a recommendation by police to also charge Sambora, a longtime Laguna Beach resident, with child endangerment because there were two minors in his car.

Authorities have declined to identify the three female passengers, but he has a 10-year-old daughter with actress Heather Locklear.

“We believe that in order for us to file child endangerment charges there would have had to be additional aggravating circumstances,” District Attorney’s spokeswoman Farrah Emami said. She said those circumstances could include driving erratically or speeding.

Sambora, who twice spent time in rehab during 2007, was arrested shortly before 11 p.m. on March 25 after failing a field sobriety test administered by officers at the scene.

Bon Jovi, formed in New Jersey during the 1980s, became one of the decade’s most popular bands with top-selling albums including “Slippery When Wet” and “New Jersey.”

The band, which is fronted by singer Jon Bon Jovi, is best known for such classic rock hits as “Livin’ on a Prayer,” “You Give Love a Bad Name” and “I’ll Be There for You.”

(Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Cynthia Osterman)

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