By Özge Terzioğlu
WOODLAND – Defendant Herardo Martinez learned the hard way that—absent other evidence, like dashcam video—the word of law enforcement carries more weight than his in a courtroom.
Martinez asked Yolo County Superior Court Commissioner Kent O’Mara Wednesday if he could see dash camera footage from the police officer who gave him a ticket, and Martinez was shocked that it was only his word against a police officer.
Defendant Martinez was found guilty by Commissioner O’Mara based solely on the police officer’s story of what happened before the officer decided to write a ticket for the defendant. Martinez was ordered to pay a fine of $376.
The police officer testified that the incident happened in late 2019, when he saw the defendant slow and come to a stop behind about 10 vehicles waiting to turn left in a left turn lane, but claimed that he then saw the defendant drive over the double yellow lines into the opposite lane on the road. That’s when he initiated a traffic stop.
However, the defendant told a wildly different story of what he believed happened. Martinez recalled making a left turn into the 7-Eleven parking lot, and he noticed the police officer behind him. He recalled leaving his car, then going back to his car to get his wallet and use the 7-Eleven ATM.
Defendant Martinez specified that the police officer’s lights were not on when he left his car. He also reported that the police officer went behind his car to look at his license plate and write him a ticket.
The defendant said that while he saw the cop writing him a ticket, he went to a Mexican restaurant right next to the 7-Eleven, ordered lunch, and when he came out the police officer told him that what he did was wrong, he could go to jail, and his car could be taken away from him.
Hurriedly, Defendant Martinez expressed that he didn’t want to go to jail, so he accepted the ticket.
He further explained “normally, if I do something wrong and I know it, I man up to it, but [the police officer’s] lights weren’t on, but for me to do my errands, get lunch all with his lights off is unfair.”
Martinez reiterated that if the officer put his lights on he would’ve known it was aimed at him. But since there were no lights on, the defendant believed he didn’t do anything wrong.
Judge O’Mara did not hesitate to declare the defendant as guilty based on the testimony the police officer gave of what happened before he pulled over Martinez. He ordered the defendant to pay a $376 fine.
Defendant Martinez interjected and asked, “Is it my word against [the police officer’s] word when it comes to stuff like that? Is there a dashcam I can see?”
Quick to respond, Commissioner O’Mara clarified that “if [dashcam footage] existed [the police officer] would’ve brought it here today. You’re lucky you weren’t cited for a misdemeanor for driving in the opposite lane.”
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