By Citlalli Peralta
Woodland – A California Highway Patrol officer who investigated the collision of two cars on Westbound Interstate 80 on Sept. 17, 2018, took the stand in a DUI trial. The defendant, Rajesh Kumar Sundar, has been charged with the crime of driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol and causing injury.
The testimony of the CHP officer, the first witness of the day, detailed the events of the collision that occurred a little over a year ago in the early morning. A Hyundai, which the defendant was driving, rear-ended a Ford van and resulted in both cars losing control. Post-collision, the Hyundai had been extremely damaged and caught on fire with the defendant still inside. The collision also caused the two passengers of the Ford van to be minimally injured.
After surveying the scene of the collision, the officer left the scene for the UC Davis Medical Center. The defendant had been taken to the emergency room after breaking his leg in the collision. The officer then testified that the defendant admitted to drinking three Bud Light beers and stated the car had no mechanical issues and. The witness described Sundar having red and watery eyes, speaking slurred words, smelling of alcohol, and failing two different types of field sobriety tests. The defendant was then arrested and given his Miranda rights after a breathalyzer test estimated that the blood alcohol content was estimated to be at .26%, above the legal limit of .08%.
In cross-examination, the defense attorney asked the witness if he remembered the speed of the Hyundai, but the officer didn’t remember.
A second witness took the stand and testified he had been driving on the freeway when he saw two individuals attempting to pull a male out of a burning car. The witness testified that he tried to help and that the burning car was heavily damaged from the front end. The witness testimony suggested the collision was allegedly caused by the defendant. However, the defense attorney in cross-examination determined that the witness didn’t observe or hear the collision.
The next witness called by the prosecution was California Highway Patrol Officer Mike Simpson. Officer Simpson had a body camera on, which provided footage and audio of the Ford van’s passengers and their statements. The body camera footage showed the two passengers stating they quickly attempted to remove the defendant from the burning car after the collision. Officer Simpson’s body camera footage also showed that one of the two passengers felt pain in his lower back. The officer testified that the bruising and injuries the passengers received could have been inflicted by the collision.
During cross-examination, the defense attorney asked Officer Simpson if the bruising origin could be specifically placed, to which the officer admitted he had no way to determine if the bruising and injuries occurred because of the collision.
The last witness was Department of Justice Forensic Scientist Jahdi Malik. She testified that a blood sample is accurate in determining alcohol presence and that this process is widely accepted in the scientific community. In her testimony, Malik stated she tested the defendant’s blood sample two months after it was taken and the test concluded that the defendant’s blood alcohol content was at 0.24%.
In cross-examination, the defense attorney questioned the integrity of the blood sample results and questioned if the two-month pause would have altered the result. The witness then testified that the time gap wouldn’t have changed the results because the blood sample she tested was refrigerated and allowed the blood sample to remain the same as when it was first collected.
The trial will resume on Wednesday and is expected to end on Thursday.