COVID Delayed: DUI Defendant Loses Probable Cause Hearing, Trial Upcoming

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By Derrick Tat

SACRAMENTO – In Sacramento County, Eric Olsen was charged with driving under the influence more than a year ago, on April 2, 2019. But then there was something called COVID-19.

Olsen’s case, scheduled to start trial just days before most of the country, including the courts, shut down in March of 2020,  is now facing trial again Jan. 28, 2021, after a probable cause hearing held in Sacramento County Superior Court via Zoom livestream late last week.

Despite testimony that Olsen’s blood alcohol was .0 percent, Judge Kevin McCormick denied the probable cause motion to dismiss evidence, and ruled again that Olsen must go to trial on charges of DUI driving, and possession of methamphetamine.

Witness Chad Sturgis, an off-duty police officer, noticed that a silver truck was struggling to stay in its lane, swerving between the two lanes and almost hitting other vehicles—including his. Officer Sturgis stayed about two to three car lengths behind him. He stated that “the vehicle kept braking, speeding up, and braking again.”

Sturgis believed that the driver was under the influence and contacted 911.

The vehicle then made a turn and parked on the side of the road. The driver and passenger stepped out of the vehicle. Officers arrived about a minute later.

Officer (no first name provided) Austin then went over to question Olsen, the driver. His first impressions of Olsen were that “his facial features were flaccid, eyelids were drippy (drippy or droopy), and looked like he was sleepy. Once he was asked a question, he looked like he woke up to answer, and then looked sleepy again.” His features indicated that he was under the influence of various substances, said the officer.

When searching, Officer Austin found a folded up dollar bill with a white crystal inside and confirmed that it was meth. Then Officer Austin went to search the vehicle and found another baggie of a brown substance on the driver side door pocket, also identified as meth.

Officer Austin stated, “Drug users tend to keep their drugs on or near them.” It can be thought of like money, where people usually wouldn’t give their money to other people to hold onto.

Officer Austin then conducted a DUI investigation through field sobriety tests to check his ability to listen, follow directions, and multitask. He asked Olsen where he was coming from, where he was going to, and what he was doing. His responses were very slow and delayed.

The next test was to stand on one leg for 30 seconds to test his balance. Olsen was only able to stand on one leg for about 21 seconds before telling the officer that his ankle was hurting.

Lastly, he conducted a preliminary alcohol screening device to test Olsen’s blood alcohol content that resulted in .0 percent. But, despite that, Olsen’s driving and mannerisms led officer Austin to believe that he was under the influence of something else.

Judge McCormick believed that there was probable cause for the arrest. Since Officer Sturgis was off duty, he did the logical thing to call 911 when there is a risk to public safety.

Officer Austin believed that Olsen was under the influence because of the conjunction of driving, facial features, and responses and answers. The DA’s offer (to resolve the case) was 30 days suspension, three months in the first offender program, and three years of informal probation.

Further proceedings set for Jan. 28, 2021.

Derrick Tat is a recent graduate from San Jose State University majoring in Criminal Justice with a minor in Business. He is born and raised in San Francisco, CA.


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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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