By Evan Chu
According to several officer testimonies during the preliminary hearing, the defendant, Oscar Delatorre, allegedly ran into a car parked on the side of the road on Sep. 20, 2019.
Mr. Delatorre is charged with possession of controlled substances for sale and driving under the influence.
Officer Jordan stated that when he was assigned to deal with the collision and called for tow services to remove the defendant’s car, he did an inventory search of the car and found an iPhone box. He looked into the box and found methamphetamine that was later weighed at just over 58 grams. When asked by the deputy public defender about the reason he opened the box, Officer Jordan said that he overheard the defendant asking where his phone was.
Aside from the methamphetamine found in the box, Officer Nicholas Peele also stated that they recovered a phone and another bag filled with 86 pills underneath the driver’s seat.
Also, the defendant allegedly told the officers that he borrowed the car from a friend and was driving with a suspended license.
Officer Peele pointed out that he noticed when he first arrived at the scene some objective signs of the defendant being under the influence, stating things such as watery eyes, dry mouth, and seeing the defendant’s pulse measured at 140 by AMR personnel.
Due to those signals, Officer Peele testified that he conducted tests in which the defendant was allegedly swaying around and having a hard time balancing himself. Officer Peele did say that the defendant allegedly told him that he had a brain injury four years ago, and a broken hip ailment was also bothering him.
At that point, Officer Peele stated that he felt it was appropriate to conduct a field test and instead had the defendant take a breath test, and the defendant was found to have no alcohol in his breath and blood.
During cross-examination, Officer Peele agreed that those signs he observed during his initial contact with the defendant could probably be caused by the shock of the collision and that he didn’t conduct the tests until he was told that drugs were found in the vehicle.
However, Officer Peele also mentioned that when they did a body search on the defendant, they discovered a clear pipe in the defendant’s pocket and smoke marks and white powder on the pipe.
The defendant allegedly told the officers that he had no idea where that pipe came from and that somebody must have put it there. Allegedly, Mr. Delatorre admitted to having been using meth for a while, but claimed that he had been cutting back on the use of meth and that the last time he used was two weeks prior to the incident.
As for the pills, Officer Peele stated that he didn’t show Mr. Delatorre the pills they recovered from the vehicle but simply asked the defendant about them. Mr. Delatorre said that he had a prescription for those pills and that the pills were in a plastic bag and not a bottle because he was in the process of moving in.
The last witness, Corporal Jeff Moe, testified that based on his 23 years of experience working as a police officer in California, the amount of meth and pills found in the car were more likely to have been for sale purposes. When asked about the normal usage amount, Corporal Moe stated that most users would use an average of 0.1 grams and that someone with a prescription to use the pills usually had around 20 to 30 pills in a bottle.
During cross-examination, Corporal Moe stated that additional packaging such as extra plastic bags was quite often present if the person was selling those drugs.
Aram Davtyan, the deputy public defender, argued that the DUI fact was not established during the testimony as the signs that Officer Peele pointed out could have been caused by the collision that happened just a few minutes before, and the fact that Mr. Delatorre scored a zero on the alcohol test and had no drug test results was important to show that there was no objective evidence that Mr. Delatorre was under the influence at the moment.
Mr. Figueroa for the People argued that the signs Mr. Delatorre demonstrated at the scene were clear signs of being under the influence, and there was proper cause to suspect that Mr. Delatorre was using drugs based on the meth and pills found in the car. Most importantly, the pipe was discovered in Mr. Delatorre’s pocket.
Judge Dave Reed agreed that sufficient evidence was brought into court which could form reasonable suspicion that Mr. Delatorre was under the influence at the time of the incident and therefore Mr. Delatorre will have to answer to all five counts, including a felony charge of possession of controlled substances with intent to sell and misdemeanor charges involving DUI and driving with a suspended license.
The arraignment date is set on Dec. 6, 2019.