By Danielle Eden C. Silva
The DUI case against Rebecca Marie Tauzer arrived at closing statements in Department 13 before the jury went into deliberation.
The court session began with the submission of two new documents by the People: a DMV printout and a printout of her car registration. Both were certified by the district attorney’s office. The defense objected to introducing new evidence into a trial near closing with no witnesses able to testify to the evidence. Judge Paul K. Richardson ruled the information relevant to the case, as one document noted the defendant’s height and weight which could be used in relation to her limit for alcohol.
Afterward, the jury came in and the final witness for the defense appeared on the stand.
Detective Jeremy Hembree, at the time of the arrest a deputy, has had experience with the Yolo County Cannabis Task Force. He went into detail on the amount of training he has received on driving under the influence of narcotics.
On the night of the arrest, the arresting officer had called Detective Hembree and asked for assistance in a DUI arrest. The defendant had been uncooperative with the arresting officer and Detective Hembree was requested to come and mediate between them.
He introduced himself and explained the process of voluntarily giving over the sample instead of going through the lengthy warrant process to the defendant. The defendant complied with a breath test. The detective then identified Ms. Tauzer in court.
A car camera video was played for the court, revealing the arresting officer passing in front of the vehicle and joining the defendant and Det. Hembree on the driver’s side of the vehicle. Ms. Tauzer was the only one in the camera’s view for the majority of the clip, the video containing mostly dialogue between Hembree and the defendant.
Ms. Tauzer admitted she had been driving and drove her car into a ditch an hour before the arresting officer arrived at the scene. Det. Hembree then read her Miranda rights and asked if she would agree with a breath test or a blood test, noting that she can deny. The defendant agreed to a breath test. The officer continued to instruct her to exhale before the machine captured a sample automatically.
After the video was shown, the witness noted that Tauzer appeared to be under the influence due to the smell of alcohol, the slightly slurred speech, and the unsteady gaze. Det. Hembree stated he had left the case to the arresting officer and hadn’t written a supplemental report, not even having looked at the breath test results but handing them to the arresting officer.
In cross-examination, Det. Hembree explained the test needs a person to exhale until they are almost out of breath. The defendant was also allowed to not take the breath test.
The breath sample could be taken automatically or manually. If a breath sample hadn’t automatically been taken within the first three tries, Detective Hembree noted he would have manually taken one and noted it in a report. In the redirect, the manual samples were noted as less accurate as they didn’t have that “deep lung air.”
While the arrest doesn’t come from one test but from the totality of the circumstances, the detective noted the sample does help.
Detective Hembree was excused.
After jury instructions, closing statements began.
The People stated there to be four major pieces in the case that didn’t contain lies: the 911 call, the car camera evidence, the evidentiary breath test, and the towing records from Citizens Towing & Impound in Woodland.
The 911 call had occurred at 1:18 am or 1:20 am, several minutes after the caller had seen the car in a ditch with its brake lights on. This call came from a valid concern of whether or not the person inside of the car was injured or hurt. The caller had also been coming from Cache Creek Casino, as had the defendant, so they could have been fairly driving fairly close in time with each other.
The arresting officer arrived at 1:25 am with his car camera on, noting no lights and no sound of the engine. Eventually, he would notice the defendant and her neighbor in the driveway. The defendant appeared to have been pulling into her own driveway. The People argued that she had her purse with her, as a woman leaving her car would have.
The angle of the van into the ditch also brought up questions, with the People arguing that Tauzer had been accustomed to turning left into her driveway and crashed into the ditch instead. The defendant perhaps “mis-saw” the road, another impairment of alcohol. These impairments were shown in the field sobriety tests and also with the alcohol on her breath, her swaying, and her lies about drinking that night in an attempt to divert the officer.
The first few attempts at receiving her breath sample were unsuccessful and a manual sample wouldn’t have been optimal. The test results showed she couldn’t look into the light, couldn’t walk properly, and failed to follow simple directions. Her breath results came in at 0.17 percent, higher than the legal limit of 0.08 percent blood alcohol content, and an expert witness’ testimony that the average at which people begin feeling impairments is at 0.05.
Lastly, the People noted the towing company’s records. The records from Citizens, which included an invoice with her signature, revealed the defendant called a tow truck company when the crash occurred.
The defense’s closing began by stating that the jury wasn’t here to debate the policy of DUIs and drunk driving but whether this evidence provided by the prosecution proved the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. She had been driving and she had had alcohol at some point, but had she had alcohol in her system while she was driving? He noted the prosecutor and witnesses had used the term “crash” but there were no high impact damages or skid marks. The witnesses only saw a car in a ditch.
In the car camera video from the arresting officer, Ms. Tauzer is detained and immediately the officer is drawing conclusions and figuring how to meet them. Additionally, he didn’t follow sobriety test procedure and created unreliable evidence. In a horizontal gaze test that requires clear instruction, the video revealed he pointed the light in her eyes, said, “Look at me,” and didn’t inform the defendant it was a test. Because of the mistakes in the instruction, she was confused and agitated. Valid evidence could only be produced from following proper procedure.
The 911 caller wasn’t looking for any incidents when he discovered the vehicle. He was coming home and claimed it to be raining that night, which the other witnesses didn’t recall. The arresting officer didn’t keep evidence or do a follow up to see if Ms. Tauzer really was at Cache Creek; he immediately assumed she drank before she drove home, when he detained her at her residence. He also noted the defendant didn’t appear on the stand because she was not required to. The government should be required to prove her guilt, not the defendant her innocence.
In response, the People directed the jury to circumstantial evidence, and not what the arresting officer performed incorrectly, to make reasonable conclusions.
The jury was then excused for deliberation after some final jury instructions.
(Update: late yesterday afternoon, the jury returned with guilty verdicts on both charges).