By Fabiha Zaman
On Wednesday afternoon, a motion to suppress was argued in Department 10 for defendant Juan Carlos Reyes. Mr. Reyes is charged with domestic violence, but the motion to suppress is concerning a reading from a breathalyzer that was taken during a test for which the defendant had allegedly not given consent. Thus, the court prefaced the motion by emphasizing that the burden was with the prosecution to prove whether there was consent or not.
Deputy District Attorney Mahal, representing the People, called Officer Victor Barajas as the first witness. Officer Barajas is employed by the Winters Police Department, and has been working there for approximately 6 months.
On September 23, 2017, the defendant’s wife, Mrs. Reyes, flagged Officer Barajas down while he was on patrol in an area near the Winters High School. Mrs. Reyes told Officer Barajas and his partner who was also on patrol that there was a struggle in her home and that her husband had hit her.
Officer Barajas then asked Corporal Creighton Urquhart to go to the apartment complex and detain Reyes until further investigation. Reyes was eventually detained and Officer Barajas, the main arresting officer, read him his Miranda rights during booking at the police department.
Officer Barajas recalled that, during booking, a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) test was administered by Corporal Urquhart, but he did not recall if Corporal Urquhart asked the defendant for
consent. He added that he did not hear or recall any consent being given and that he did not remember seeing the defendant blow into the breathalyzer.
Upon reviewing his report to refresh his memory, Officer Barajas said that his report reflected that Corporal Urquhart did in fact ask for consent and that there was no hesitation or indication of refusal on the defendant’s part during the administration of the PAS test.
During cross-examination, Deputy Public Defender James Bradford, representing Reyes, asked the witness to explain the process of events that led to the arrest of Reyes in more detail.
Officer Barajas revealed that his partner that night, Officer Jose Hermosillo, told Corporal Urquhart about the possible domestic violence issue over the radio, and that they arrived at the apartment complex 15 to 20 minutes after Corporal Urquhart.
A statement from Reyes was not taken at the scene, but Officer Barajas said that he was read his Miranda rights during booking while he was filling out the arrest form.
Officer Barajas included that he read Reyes his Miranda rights twice, once in English and once in Spanish, because Reyes wanted to give a statement. Officer Barajas confirmed that the statement was given in Spanish, and that the breath test was administered after the statement was taken.
Mr. Bradford then asked about Officer Barajas’ department policy on administering breath tests. Officer Barajas said that Reyes was arrested for domestic violence but with his training and experience, there is no policy to his knowledge that states they have to administer breath tests in all non-alcohol related or DUI cases. It is based on the arresting officer’s own whim.
During redirect, Officer Barajas explained the things they look for in a domestic violence case. For instance, they look for a dominant aggressor, if there were children involved, whether there was drinking, and if there were any injuries or violence.
In this case, Officer Barajas observed injuries on Mrs. Reyes but not on the defendant, the children were not involved, and that to his knowledge he did not see any indication of drinking.
In a brief re-cross from Mr. Bradford, the witness revealed that he talked to Mr. Williams about the case, and he remembered telling him that he did not recall if Reyes gave consent for the PAS test.
The next People’s witness was Corporal Creighton Urquhart, who has been working for the Winters Police Department for 17 years.
Corporal Urquhart repeated a lot of what Officer Barajas had testified to, including what they looked for in domestic violence cases. However, Corporal Urquhart added that there was absolutely an indication that the defendant was drinking because he had red bloodshot eyes and he could smell the odor of alcohol coming off the defendant’s body.
The witness added that there was no indication that Reyes did not understand English. He also explained the PAS test and the process by which they administer the test. Corporal Urquhart also said that they always ask for consent when administering the test and, in cases not involving alcohol, the test is given mostly to let the jail know the blood alcohol content of the defendant.
Corporal Urquhart mentioned multiple times that if a defendant is unwilling to give consent or does not blow into the breathalyzer machine, a test is not administered and they just make a note of that in their report. He also said that, over the years, he has administered the PAS test thousands of times, and when a defendant refuses or does not give consent, he does not administer the test.
During booking, the witness added that he was not in the booking room for the entirety of the booking process, he was coming and going as were the other officers. But, at some point all three officers, including Officer Barajas and his partner who was patrolling with him that night, were in the booking room together because those officers asked Corporal Urquhart to proofread the arrest and detention report.
Before being excused, Corporal Urquhart said that he had no independent recollection of administering the test, and does not remember any conversation with the defendant prior to the test, besides the small talk he made with him before detaining him at the apartment complex. He also had no recollection of any statement being given, but said that there was a possibility that all three of the officers including himself were in the room when Reyes gave the statement and when he administered the PAS test.
Before the afternoon break, Judge Daniel Maguire notified the defense that he would be looking for laws regarding the admissibility and sufficiency of a standard practice as evidence.
After the break, there was a brief exchange about whether the defendant himself would testify. But after the prosecution said that they would ask questions regarding the domestic abuse incident to help with the defendant’s recollection, defense counsel decided not to have the defendant testify.
Both the prosecution and the defense then gave their closing arguments. After the arguments were given and both parties rested, Judge Maguire said that, although there is an issue with the independent recollection of the witnesses, the habitual evidence provided is admissible and sufficient enough for the prosecution to meet the burden of proof.
The preliminary hearing for this case is scheduled for Friday in Department 13 at 8:30 a.m. The defendant’s appearance for the hearing was waived, as Reyes did not want to take more days off of work.