By Susana Jurado
FRESNO – A woman charged with two counts of crashing her car into a parked one while driving under the influence—and marked as a fugitive because she failed to appear in Fresno County Superior Court—pleaded guilty, leading to a reduced sentence with the second count dismissed during her arraignment last Thursday.
According to reports made by the district attorney’s office, Natasha Holston had no criminal history before the incident. She drove alone under the influence of alcohol at a level well above 0.08, at around 0.15 in Fresno County.
She crashed her car against a parked vehicle, leaving minor damages. Her failure to appear in court marked her as a fugitive and resulted in the Department of Motor Vehicles placing a hold on her license.
Assistant Public Defender Stephany Winemiller, who stood on behalf of Holston, began the arraignment by waiving all constitutional and statutory rights of her clients had and later claimed, “At this time, Ms. Holston will be entering a no contest plea to Count 1 noting that her BAC level was at 0.14, with Count 2 being dismissed.”
Judge William Terrence advised Holston about the significant repercussions that can come from a decision such as this. He continued to question her about whether she thoroughly went over the course of the plea with her attorney and if she clearly understood what she was walking into.
“Yes, your Honor,” Holston replied with no hesitation, and she pleaded guilty to the charge of driving under the influence with a blood alcohol content level above 0.08.
As Judge Terrence accepted this plea, he took the time to ask the prosecutor, “People’s motion as to any remaining enhancements and counts?”
Deputy District Attorney Brian Exline moved to reduce the sentence by responding, “People move to strike the enhancement alleged in Count 1 in light of the plea, reserving the right for comment and restitution. Also, the People move to dismiss Count 2 in light of the plea, reserving right for comments and restitution.”
The public defender waived time for sentencing and a formal arraignment, but did note to Judge Terrence, “Ms. Holston, in speaking with her, was willing to take responsibility for what happened, and prepared to resolve this case at the early stages. She does acknowledge her wrongdoing in entering this plea.”
Judge Terrence found her guilty on the first count charged against her of driving under the influence above the BAC level count of 0.08. He placed her on three years informal probation, where she was ordered to serve 180 days at Fresno County Jail.
However, citing her guilty plea, that order was stayed and she instead was ordered to serve four days under the adult offender work program.
The DMV will suspend Holston’s license in light of her plea. However, they will restore and lift her suspension if she enrolls into a Level 1 DUI class within 30 days of the ruling date.
Additionally, she was ordered to pay a fine of $1,941 to pay for the penalty fees and assessments. She would be given leniency by the court by cutting that fine in half if she takes court-ordered life classes prior to December 31, 2020.
Judge Terrence wished her good luck, but added:
“You are advised and admonished that being under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both significantly impacts your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. Therefore, it is extremely dangerous to drive under the influence of alcohol, drugs or both. If you continue to drive while under the influence, and as of the result of your driving someone is killed, you could be charged with murder.”
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