By Hannah Grayson
On Friday morning, the trial began in a DUI case presided over by Judge Alexandra Robert Gordon in Department 14.
The defendant was pulled over at 2:15 a.m. on April 17 of this year going eastbound on the Bay Bridge. She had just worked the night as a dancer from around 7 p.m. to 2 a.m.
The trial started with opening statements. The prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Pearl Tan, focused on the blood alcohol content of the defendant, measured multiple times over the course of her arrest. The first time it was measured, it gave a reading of .175 which is over double the legal limit of .08.
In the defense’s opening statement, Deputy Public Defender Nitin Sapra focused on mouth alcohol. The defense said that the defendant had something to drink right before driving and that the blood alcohol content was so high due to the alcohol remaining in the mouth during the test.
The first witness was called to the stand. The witness was Officer Escobar Guerrero from the California Highway Patrol, who was one of the arresting officers.
The officer recounted his DUI training to show he is qualified. He then recounted the night of the arrest. The officer and his partner, Officer Mendoza, pulled the defendant over for speeding at what he believed to be about 90 miles per hour. Upon pulling her over, he smelled alcohol coming from the car and said her speech was slurred. He also said she told him she had about six or seven shots of Hennessy. He then began to administer tests to determine a DUI.
In the tests, he found some signs that he has been trained to identify as signs of being under the influence of alcohol. He found her eyes to be red and watery. He observed her to be swaying and using her arms for balance in the one leg stand test. He also said her eyes were fluttering when closed. The officer also claimed he followed the correct procedures in administering the breathalyzer test.
In cross-examination, Sapra played the dash-cam footage of the defendant being pulled over. The officer admitted that she had not been weaving or swerving, which are common signs of driving under the influence. He also agreed that in the clip she had used her turn signal and switched lanes carefully.
The defendant had only slept for about four hours the night before and it had been about 16 hours that she had been awake when she was driving. The officer then admitted that the red eyes he witnessed could have been from tiredness. The defense also pointed out that the defendant performed 15 out of the 18 steps perfectly in the test to walk in a straight line.
Sapra also called into question whether or not the officers gave clear instructions to the defendant in performing the tests, as the instructions were not recorded. It was pointed out that if she had not been given proper instructions, she could have performed incorrectly due to that and not the alcohol.
The prosecution then called another witness to the stand as an expert on breathalyzers. Officer Anthony Zill of the California Highway Patrol is in charge of weekly tests and maintenance of breathalyzers and training CHP officers in using the device.
The prosecution also questioned him on mouth alcohol. He claimed he once tested the device using Listerine. Right after he spit it out, his blood alcohol content was off the charts. However, after 15 minutes, it had gone down to zero. This was supposed to prove that if the officers had indeed followed the procedures and waited 15 minutes, mouth alcohol should not have been present in the defendant’s test.
Officer Zill said that he had performed a check on the device used on the defendant. But upon closer inspection of his logs, the device was actually out of compliance on the day it was used on the defendant.