By Syed Ali
When an officer approached Nicole Sotera Flynn at the scene of a traffic collision, he found her to have symptoms of impairment including watery eyes, slurred speech, and an alcohol odor coming from her person. That was enough for Judge Janene Beronio, presiding over Department 9 for the preliminary hearing in the afternoon of March 16, 2017, to issue a holding order.
During the preliminary hearing, the People called Officer Cornell, a sworn peace officer for 20 years, to the stand. On August 27, 2016, the officer was dispatched to State Route 16 for a traffic collision. He arrived to a see a silver Suzuki on the grass area on the side of the paved road.
When the officer came into contact with Ms. Flynn, he noticed the symptoms of impairment listed above. Ms. Flynn then indicated that she had drunk “Mike’s hard lemonade” and was headed to Vacaville. When the officer asked if she felt she was intoxicated, she replied by saying, “Of course I was intoxicated,” referring to the time of the collision.
Ms. Flynn’s passenger, “EO,” was in the AMR (American Medical Response) ambulance, immediately being treated at the scene. The AMR personnel indicated that they were the first responders to the scene of the incident, where they saw the Suzuki flipped over with Ms. Flynn in the driver seat.
Ms. Flynn said that she had been driving 40 mph when an unknown vehicle cut her off, forcing her to veer to the right and causing her car to flip. The officer testified that it was most likely an unsafe turning movement. The officer administered field sobriety tests, including the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test. The officer stated that the findings were consistent with someone impaired by alcohol.
Ms. Flynn willingly provided a blood test for drugs. The criminalist who personally conducted the tests of the blood sample found that there was a .197 blood alcohol concentration.
During cross-examination, the defense asked the officer to validate that Ms. Flynn had been driving at an acceptable speed of 40mph in a 55mph speed limit area. The defense then asked the officer if he was being updated as he was driving to the scene. The officer didn’t recall, but he stated maybe that was the case, and that it took him approximately 19 minutes to arrive at the scene of the accident.
Since AMR was already at the scene, the officer spoke to multiple people, though being brief. The officer indicated that he had asked the AMR personnel if they saw signs of alcohol impairment or alcohol in the vehicle, to which they responded no.
When the officer contacted Ms. Flynn she was out of her vehicle leaning against the AMR vehicle. The officer testified that as they spoke he noticed the odor of alcohol more and more. During this contact, AMR took her aside into the ambulance.
The defense asked the officer if he had asked AMR if they noticed any head injury during the 30-35 minutes they were at the scene. The officer indicated that he hadn’t specifically inquired about a head injury.
The officer testified that he had checked Ms. Flynn’s pupil size to see if there was any possible head injury. The officer referenced his report and stated there was no indication in his report that he had noticed any difference in pupil size. The defense had no further questions.
The People pointed out that Ms. Flynn had had DUI cases prior to this incident.
Judge Beronio declared that there was sufficient evidence, for purposes of a preliminary hearing, to consider the offenses of Count 1 (DUI with injury to another person), Count 2 (DUI of .08 and above causing bodily injury to another person), and Count 3 (driving with suspended license) to have been committed. Additionally, there was sufficient evidence for count enhancements to Counts 1 and 2.
Judge Beronio concluded with the statement, “No alcohol, no driving,” pointing to the defendant.
Arraignment is scheduled for March 30, 2017, at 10am.