By Joshua Liang
Woodland – A man charged with allegedly driving under the influence faces the possibility of a misdemeanor charge upgraded to a felony.
On August 10, 2019, the defendant allegedly was intoxicated in the Woodland area, with a Blood Alcohol Count far above the normal parameters for operating a motor vehicle.
The first witness in the hearing, Woodland Officer Ted Ruiz, recounted responding to a public disturbance reported at a Woodland supermarket at around midnight on August 10. Upon arrival, the witness became suspicious of a vehicle parked in front of him in the southern half of the parking lot.
While intending to investigate the vehicle as a possible source of the noise interference, Officer Ruiz spotted a Chrysler that drove up to and then stopped between both vehicles. Upon making contact with the Chrysler, the witness inspected the vehicle from the passenger side window, noting that it had occupants in the driver and passenger seats. The officer then identified the defendant in the courtroom.
The officer claimed he had simply said, “Hi,” when making contact with the passenger seat occupant. While conversing with the occupant, he testified that both the driver and the passenger exhibited watery bloodshot eyes and “relaxed facial expressions” that were indicative of alcohol intoxication. The passenger side occupant had stated something to the effect of, “I don’t know what we’re doing here. I don’t know what we’re doing.” Upon circling the vehicle to talk with the defendant on the driver’s side, Officer Ruiz noted that the defendant had repeatedly covered his mouth with either his arm or his shoulder.
While conducting a search of the suspect’s vehicle, Officer Ruiz located multiple “containers” in the vehicle after having asked both occupants to step out. One of these containers was still filled with a liquid which matched the aroma of beer.
Based on all these previous observations, the witness concluded that that the defendant had been under the influence of an alcoholic beverage on the night of Aug. 10, 2019.
Officer Ruiz stated that he has conducted no less than a hundred DUI investigations throughout his career as a Woodland police officer. He has also received more than 40 hours of sobriety and narcotics training, as well as providing field sobriety test training himself. In addition, another officer was present to provide Spanish translation for the defendant.
The deputy then reiterated that the incident occurred in a parking lot and he had turned the lights of his police car off directly prior to the encounter. After witnessing the strange behavior of the Chrysler, he had then turned on his body camera before making contact with the defendant’s vehicle.
Officer Alma Rosas next testified before the court, sharing she had provided translation from the defendant on the night of August 10.
Officer Rosas stated that her grasp of the Spanish language stemmed from growing up with the language. She then stated it was her belief that she spoke the language with a sufficient amount of fluency. While speaking with the defendant, the witness stated that they had understood each other throughout the duration of the questioning. The defendant had allegedly admitted consuming alcohol that night and stated he did not believe it had impaired his ability to drive.
Officer Rosas was then dismissed.
The defense argued the charge should be a misdemeanor instead of a felony, as the officer had simply said that he recognized drug intoxication symptoms and stated “please believe me.” The prosecution rebutted, stating that for a preliminary hearing the standard was probable cause – which had been met through Officer Ruiz’s actions.
The first witness was called back to the stand. The officer described a series of tests he had asked the suspect to complete, ranging from walking tests to asking the suspect to touch his nose. The defendant had reportedly failed to meet the officer’s instructions on more than one occasion, with Officer Ruiz noting that the suspect walked with some slight “sway” during the tests. He went on to state that he was not aware of any tests aside from a breathalyzer or a blood test that would positively identify a specific Blood Alcohol Count.
The court found that there was sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the defendant had in fact driven under the influence. The date for the next hearing was marked for Sep. 12, 2019, at 9 am in Department 7 with the defendant being held on a felony charge.