By Pavan Potti
MERCED – Rachael Silva was arrested for reckless driving, under the influence of alcohol, June 23 and when she appeared in Merced County Superior Court last Thursday, she began by quibbling that the blood alcohol test was wrong.
Merced Judge Ronald Hansen directed Silva to stay silent.
Not only was Judge Hansen in possession of evidence pointing to Silva’s alcohol level being around 0.07 on the night of her arrest, but also had proof that she had violated her probation orders when a can of Bud Light had been found in her refrigerator.
Facing both charges of reckless driving under the influence and violating probation, Silva’s public defender Vincent Andvade explained how her best option was to accept the 30-day jail sentence and request the court to withdraw her DUI allegation.
The possibility of going to jail visibly bothered Silva, who repeatedly apologized to Judge Hansen for her actions and claimed that she didn’t want to leave her family’s side. She claimed that she was a single mother who had gone through a phase of unhealthy relationships and that her family was all she had.
Her biggest concern, however, was the financial security of her family. She lost her job because of the pandemic and was struggling to find work again—something she attributes to her frustration and substance abuse. In order for her children to be supported, jail was the last place she needed to be, she said.
Silva’s insistence she would better herself were initially met with skepticism from Judge Hansen as well as Deputy District Attorney Anthony Colacito, who said the possible reduction of Silva’s case may not comply with the Vehicle Code laws.
Judge Hansen placed Silva on three years’ probation in which she is to abstain from alcohol consumption and any other substance abuse. He sentenced her to 60 days of jail time, all of which could be suspended in entirety if she followed her probation.
Furthermore, her original fine of $1,123 was reduced by $800 which the judge converted into 96 hours of community service instead. He ordered Silva to report back to Courtroom 5 on October 15 to prove her progress and commitment to the project.
Ms. Silva’s case of unemployment brings out the harsh truth of the COVID pandemic and how it is affecting the state as a whole—in some places worse than others.
Silva is one of the 21,800 people in Merced County to be currently unemployed. The county is facing an 18.7 percent unemployment rate, making it the county with the 10th highest unemployment rate out of 58 total counties in California (the top 9 being: Los Angeles, Monterey, Tulane, Imperial, San Benito, Mono, Colusa, Plumas, and Alpine).
The pandemic has been particularly unforgiving to workers in the food service and accommodation industry, with the retail trade industry and health care industries following.
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