By Bryce Gaston and Pedro Maturana
Driver under the Influence Crashes, Leading to Subsequent Crash
By Bryce Gaston
In Department 14 on Tuesday, Judge David Rosenberg presided over the case of Mr. Theodoro Mendiblez, who is facing charges for a DUI causing injury, with enhancements for having a blood alcohol content of over 0.15 percent. The defendant pled not guilty to the charges.
The morning session began with opening statements, which claimed that allegedly on December 9, 2017, at around 3:00 am the defendant was driving on Hwy 16 near Cache Creek Casino when his car veered off the road into a ditch, causing it to roll. It came to a stop on its passenger side in the middle of the road. It was later found that the defendant had a blood alcohol content of 0.16 percent (double the legal limit), which allegedly caused the driver to lose control of the vehicle.
Mendiblez’ car was blocking the westbound lane going away from Woodland. Since many employees of Cache Creek Casino end their shifts at 3:00 am, at least 3 of them were driving away from the casino at the time of the crash, including multiple security officers trained in emergency services. Shortly after the incident, drivers who noticed the car pulled over, turned on their flashers and began to help.
Standing near the car in the middle of the road, patrons tried contacting 911, which was difficult since the road does not have much cell service. Others attempted to remove the defendant from his vehicle by using their peacoats as protection to pry the broken windshield away from the car to give them more access to Mendiblez.
According to witnesses, while the patrons were frantically trying to remove Mendiblez from his vehicle, another car traveling in the same lane as the defendant’s vehicle appeared not to see the crash and barrelled into the car, causing two citizens to be thrown a far distance. They collided with each other in the air and landed in a nearby ditch. One citizen was severely injured with multiple broken bones, including a broken pelvis.
Witnesses alleged that the car did not attempt to slow down as it was approaching the crashed vehicle, and one claimed it may have even accelerated. Officers at the scene predicted that the second car must have been traveling at 40 miles per hour at the least.
Witnesses Testify in DUI Jury Trial
By Pedro Maturana
The jury trial of Theodoro Bustamante Mendiblez resumedtoday in Department 14 with the prosecution and defense calling the officers at the scene to the witness stand. On December 9, 2017, Mr. Mendiblez was involved in a car collision on CA State Route 16 near the Cache Creek Casino and has been charged with two counts of driving under the influence.
Today, Deputy District Attorney Fritz van der Hoek called traffic Officer Nicholas Selfridge to the stand. Officer Selfridge had responded to a call involving a collision at approximately 3 a.m. on the morning of December 9, 2017. When he arrived, Mr. Mendiblez’s vehicle was on the road, a traffic sign was knocked down, and another vehicle had marks indicating it had previously overturned, although it was positioned upright when the officer arrived. A pedestrian seemed to have been hit.
Officer Selfridge proceeded with a routine investigation of the collision. During Selfridge’s investigation, Mr. Mendiblez indicated he had only slept for five hours the night before and had only eaten appetizers since 11:30 p.m. Mendiblez also told Selfridge he had been drinking beer between 7 and 11 p.m. at the Applebee’s in Woodland. Officer Selfridge then conducted a field sobriety test on Mr. Mendiblez.
Officer Selfridge explained to the court the six clues of the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test, which allows officers to gauge an individual’s level of intoxication. Selfridge attested that he identified all six clues on Mr. Mendiblez during the field sobriety test.
Additionally, Officer Selfridge administered a finger count exercise, to touch the top of each four fingers to the tip of his thumb and Mr. Mendiblez did not follow instructions. Selfridge asked Mendiblez to estimate 30 seconds in his head and Mendiblez estimated 53 seconds. Officer Selfridge also attested that Mr. Mendiblez was swaying in a circular motion.
Officer Selfridge had declined to give Mr. Mendiblez the Romberg balance test because Mr. Mendiblez complained about pain in his leg. Mendiblez also complained to Selfridge that he had bumped his head. While cross-examining Selfridge, Deputy Public Defender Jose Gonzalez-Vasquez revealed that Mr. Mendiblez had lacerations on his right hand.
Officer Selfridge witnessed paramedics give Mr. Mendiblez a blood test, which he secured and labeled in a box.
Mr. Gonzales-Vasquez called Officer Michael Beard of the California Highway Patrol to the stand. Mr. Beard explained the protocols for investigating a collision. As part of procedure, Mr. Beard contacts the drivers, conducts interviews, checks for injuries, and takes measurements. Mr. Beard also explained how it is important to move the collisions out of traffic quickly, although that is not always possible. Mr. Beard made it clear how, despite the bright lights of a patrol car, being on the highway is always dangerous and they want to clean up the scene for everyone’s safety as soon as possible.
Mr. Beard distinguished the different kinds documents that are used when investigating a scene. A sketch is made by an officer representing how the officer “feels” the collision occurred, and a “factual document” is used to record the measurements taken at the scene. Mr. Beard attested that the vehicle damage, the debris, and witnesses helped him to come to a conclusion about the collision. Given a witness statement, Mr. Beard concluded that one of the vehicles was going an unsafe speed of 40 miles per hour and that the driver was blinded by headlights and crashed.
Upon examination by Mr. van der Hoek, Mr. Beard revealed that he was able to get a statement from a witness who does not speak perfect English. Mr. Beard attested that it was not uncommon to receive statements from people who didn’t speak perfect English and that he had done so in the past. This witness is to testify tomorrow.
When asked about Mr. Mendiblez’s condition at the scene, Mr. Beard replied that he did not think Mr. Mendiblez was under the influence.