Yolo County Jury Acquits Woman of Drug Charges

Yolo-Count-Court-Room-600A Yolo County jury last week acquitted Maria Olivares of possession of heroin for sale, possession of meth for sale, and offering to give away or transport less than 28 grams of marijuana.  The two primary charges contained enhancements due to their large quantities.

The incident began on November 4, 2009 when officers made an 11 pm traffic stop.  The car was pulled over for turning on the left turn blinker while stopped at a red light, when the law requires one to do so 100 feet or more before the intersection.

Officer Cristobal Lara of the Woodland Police Department noticed the defendant had a large bulge in the front of her jeans below her waistband. When the officer inquired about the bulge, the defendant indicated that it was “just some weed” which she removed and showed the officer.

The bag of marijuana weighed 19 grams or about 2/3 of an ounce.  The vehicle was searched and a backpack was located under Ms. Olivares’ passenger seat, which contained $1950 in cash.

During the search, the defendant’s cell phone received a text message requesting “some sh-t to sober up.”  Officers believed this was a request for drugs.  Ms. Olivares was arrested for a misdemeanor transportation of less than one ounce of marijuana.

During a subsequent search at the Woodland Police Department, an additional $2300 in cash was found in the defendant’s bra.

The codefendant in this case, Isidro Olivares, gave consent to search his residence.  During the search of the codefendant’s residence, officers located 69.84 grams (almost three ounces) of methamphetamine, 25.02 grams (almost one ounce) of heroin, a digital scale and packaging material.

Despite the similarities in their last name, the codefendants were not related or married.  According to Defense Attorney Jeff Raven, Ms. Olivares was only guilty of being friends with and staying with a drug dealer.  She did not have a key to the residence.  And the meth was found in a high drawer between two pairs of men’s pants.

Mr. Olivares pled no contest to both the heroin and meth charges.  Mr. Olivares is a citizen of Mexico and was deported there.  Ms. Olivares is a US citizen.

Critical to the case was the admissibility of a text message that Officer Lara read prior to making the arrest.  The text message was the only piece of direct evidence that tied Ms. Olivares to the drugs – and even that was only tying it to the marijuana, not the meth or heroin found at the residence.

The text message from “Flaco” said, “Are you going to come if not, then I’m going to drink until I get hella [f-word] drunk until I can’t [f-word] walk. I need some [f-word] sh-t to sober up and I am going to go [f-word] hang my [f-word] self to death so please come by and sell me some, peaches, or I am going to buy some more drinks, are called, four loko 12.0% of alcohol, so when u get here call me please so I could unlock the door.”

The defense sought to exclude the statement for lack of foundation and on the grounds that the statement is hearsay.

Deputy DA Michael Vroman argued that a request is by definition not hearsay.  Moreover, it was circumstantial evidence of drug-related activity. 

Flaco is apparently Ms. Olivares’ brother, however, the defense countered that Flaco is a common Hispanic nickname.

However, the evidence turned on the fact that there were two phones in the car and neither the prosecution nor the police bothered to check with the phone company to determine whose phone it was.  Judge Fall thus ruled that the expert witness cannot consider the contents of the text message and that the Officer could not testify about the text message.

Deputy DA Vroman argued that the transportation of marijuana for sale was a slam dunk.  In terms of the remaining charges, the possession for sale of heroin and meth should be based on the fact that she possessed it, she knew of its presence, she knew what it was and she intended to sell it.

He argued she can be guilty in three different ways, either as the perpetrator, as an aider and abettor or as part of conspiracy – and the natural and probable consequence of conspiracy to sell is possession.

He argued that while Isidro Olivares had keys to the apartment, Maria Olivares had moved in, she had gotten comfortable.  Her mail and prescription medications were in the kitchen.

He further argued that you could not open a drawer in the kitchen without finding meth.

Moreover, there was no evidence that either of them had a job, yet paperwork shows that she grossed $320 in October.  That, Mr. Vroman argued, has to be drug money.

Mr. Raven argued that while Ms. Olivares may be morally culpable and guilty of bad judgment, a bad choice of friends and staying at a drug dealers house, that does not mean she was a drug dealer.

She had not stayed at the apartment very long.  She had not even unpacked.  The DA cannot prove that she had been there longer than a day.

Did she know that there were drugs?  Probably.  Did she know Mr. Olivares was a drug dealer?  Probably.  Is that itself a crime?  Absolutely not.

Did she know there was a large amount of meth high up in a closet? Probably not.

There was no contraband found in her bag. 

Did she know heroin was in the crisper drawer in the fridge? Maybe, maybe not.

Weak circumstantial evidence is dangerous, Mr. Raven argued, it results in people getting convicted of crimes they didn’t commit.

Ms. Olivares was not a perpetrator, she didn’t even have a key.

Agent Rogelio Orozco, the Yolo DA Investigator for YONET (Yolo County Narcotics Enforcement Team) had testified that drug dealers package things the same and that it is common for people to team up to sell where one person has the cash and the other has the drugs. 

He testified that this is to prevent loss during robbery, or in case of interactions with the police or tandem drug sales.

Jeff Raven countered in closing that there was no evidence that the backpack was hers and that the jury cannot accept that as fact merely because it was on her side of the car. 

He argued that Agent Orozco tries to take a scenario and pigeonhole it into a case like this where it doesn’t fit.  “When you overreach, you undermine your credibility,” Mr. Raven told the jury.

In his rebuttal, Mr. Vroman argued that it did not matter who played the biggest role as long as she played a role in facilitating.

Moreover, he argued it does not matter how long she lived there. 

“She has made herself at home, she has put down boots,” he argued referring to boots photographed in the closet.

However, the jury did not buy it.  They did not even convict her of trafficking the marijuana.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

Related posts


  1. JustSaying

    [quote]“However, the evidence turned on the fact that there were two phones in the car and neither the prosecution nor the police bothered to check with the phone company to determine whose phone it was.”[/quote]Wonder whether this has anything to do with the DA’s recent phone phobia in the Arreola case.

  2. Ryan Kelly

    Where did she get the $2300 in her bra? I don’t think it will be long before she is arrested for something else. Time for her to leave Woodland, if she is smart enough.

  3. kathryndruliner

    there is a big “Crawford” issue here which I’m sure was raised also. The DA has to keep the non citizen “hearsay
    ” — amd it’s not hearsay by the way speaker, so he can be cross examined or it’s a violation of the Federal Constitution Good that this was an acquittal or it would be another reversal by the appellate court of a Yolo County case. And the courts are over-crowded in Yolo? Hmm… more evidence of Reisig’s fault in the matter.

  4. kathryndruliner

    And where did she get the $2300.00 in her bra? Ever try to get your messes cleared up at the bank of America? Anyway I agree that it is time for EVERYONE to leave Woodland. I won’t go there.

  5. JayTee

    I guess I better start leaving myself sticky notes on the dash. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been stopped at a light, then remembered there was another errand I needed to run … and put the blinker on.

  6. Tecnichick

    This one will definetely make the year end top ten useless trials in Yolo County for 2011. It’s not uncommon for people to carry large amounts of cash on them either. My mother in law always takes about $15,000 in cash with her when she goes to the Casino. God forbid if she was ever pulled over, the DA might think she is a drug dealer! Also people who have bad credit carry cash. They dont want to open a bank account for fear that a creditor will sieze it.

  7. JustSaying

    [b]JayTee[/b], when I was a kid the cops would stop cars with taillight problems, and we were sure it was to see if we had a few bottles of Bud in the car. Now that young folks’ cars are in better shape, the 100-foot turn signal requirement looks like the new law used to check out people who are just toolin’ around. The drug(s) of choice have changed too.

  8. David M. Greenwald

    Taillight problems and failure to signal are still key components of pretext stops.

    The problem here of course is they caught the bad guy, but that wasn’t enough. They overreached and tried to charge her with selling drugs or at least aiding and abetting with very little to no evidence. They couldn’t even tie the phone to her.

  9. Mr Obvious

    I find it interesting that every acquittal in Yolo County is apparently beyond obvious that the person shouldn’t have been charged and every conviction is a result if the evil DA’s office. Well at least here is is.

    I’m going to go check the backpack in my car and my pants pockets. You never know when drugs and money are going to magically appear in them.

  10. David M. Greenwald

    You are missing the obvious point here, Mr. Obvious. Hanging out and associating with drug dealers leads one to get caught up in this kind of stuff. But to take the bad judgment that this individual displayed and attempt to charge her with drug dealing is a huge reach. That is why the jury acquitted here. What actual evidence is there here that she herself was dealing drugs?

  11. Themis

    “I find it interesting that every acquittal in Yolo County is apparently beyond obvious that the person shouldn’t have been charged and every conviction is a result if the evil DA’s office. Well at least here is is.”

    I find it amazing that some people in this county keep making excuses for the DA.

  12. kathryndruliner

    About 8 years ago I had a case in Federal Court in which the Federal prosecutor (AUSA) charged my client and his brother with a heavy duty drug charge. The brother was represented by another attorney, of course. Prior to trial the attorneys asked the judge for several rulings (motions in limine). Every position my co-defendant’s attorney took, like: I don’t want gang evidence introduced, the AUSA agreed to. I disagreed. My client was not a gang member — he was just in the car with his bad guy brother. He knew his brother was a drug dealer and gang member but he was just driving with his brother and the AUSA joined the 2 together for trial hoping and knowing that the bad evidence of the bad guy would bleed over onto the brother.

    There were about 5 issues like the one above where I wanted a different ruling than my co-defendant’s attorney and the judge threw his pen down and said… “I’m not keeping all of this straight… I am severing the defendants.” After a one week trial my client was acquitted. I have a friend in the Federal AUSA’s office who told me that they joined the defendants knowing their evidence was weak (non-existant) against my client and hoping for the bleed over effect. It happens.

  13. Mr Obvious

    Something just came to mind.

    I wouldn’t put a whole lot of faith in this jury. The jury didn’t convict on the transportation of marijuana. It was in her pocket and the was transporting it. That one was pretty simple.

    Forget about the meth and heroin found in the house or the money, although it would have been nice to have an explanation for the money.

  14. David M. Greenwald

    I think it came down to the fact that it wasn’t a large quantity of marijuana. A lot of counties don’t charge automatically for transportation of marijuana if it appears to be for personal use.

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for