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Detroit Free Press , Published April 11 2012

Former Miss USA pleads no contest to impaired driving

HIGHLAND PARK, Mich. - Former Miss USA Rima Fakih pleaded no contest to driving while visibly impaired in 30th District Court in Highland Park Wednesday morning after she was arrested in December and charged with having a blood-alcohol level more than twice the legal limit.

Fakih, 26, was in court Wednesday after she was ordered to stand trial on a misdemeanor drunken driving charge in January. The city and Fakih's attorney struck a plea deal reducing an operating while intoxicated charge to driving while visibly impaired. Two other charges - open intoxicants, which is a misdemeanor, and careless driving, which is a civil infraction - were tossed out.

Fakih, who two years ago was the first Arab American to be crowned Miss USA, will be sentenced on the misdemeanor conviction May 9. A no contest plea is not an admission of guilt but is treated as such for sentencing purposes.

“The settlement that was reached is fair to all sides,” said Fakih's attorney, W. Otis Culpepper. “She doesn't have to go through all of this anymore.”

Fakih was in court with her family. Culpepper said he expects that Fakih will be placed on probation and hopes to serve that probation in California, where she lives and is pursuing acting.

“You have to pay the price for making mistakes, but you move on and make sure you learn from those mistakes,” Fakih said after the hearing.

Fakih was arrested Dec. 3 after a Highland Park police officer said she was driving a black 2011 Jaguar XJR at a high rate of speed.

The officer said the car was paced at 60 mph and that Fakih changed lanes several times without using a turn signal.

The officer said Fakih appeared disoriented and had slurred speech. Police found a wine bottle and an open bottle of Moet & Chandon champagne in the car.

A breath test revealed she initially had a blood-alcohol level of 0.19 percent. The level at which someone can be convicted of drunken driving is 0.08 percent.

Fakih was born in Lebanon and moved to the U.S. at age 7. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan-Dearborn. She won the Miss USA title in 2010 and served until June 2011.

(c)2012 the Detroit Free Press

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