Good Thing Happened to Remorseful Defendant in Court, Even If She’s Not Sure of Details

By Derrick Pal

WOODLAND, CA — Sometimes in court, good things can happen to defendants, even if they’re not so sure exactly what those good things may be.

“I’m so sorry, I’m just so sorry,” said defendant Trina Ruiz, who unexpectedly pleaded guilty instead of no contest to three charges here in Yolo County Superior Court on a warrant hearing this week.

The charges are due to be dismissed even if Ruiz didn’t quite understand how.

On or about March 4 of 2020, defendant Ruiz was alleged to have committed a misdemeanor of driving on a suspended license and an infraction of driving an unregistered vehicle.

And, on June 24, 2019, Ruiz was alleged to have committed a misdemeanor violation of shoplifting.

Deputy District Attorney Martha Wais considered the charges presented and explained an alternative program where defendant Ruiz “would be eligible for the neighborhood court…on a deferred entry of judgment basis.

“That means we would take your plea and we would hold it and let you complete a program. And if you complete that program, we just rip up the paperwork and dismiss the case,” explained DDA Wais.

Curious about the alternative, defendant Ruiz asked, “What kind of program, what does that entail for the program?”

DDA Wais explained the “the neighborhood court program is a restorative justice program, so you might meet with some community members on a Zoom basis, then you would discuss the case and decide. You might do an apology letter, they might have you do a workbook, something like that.”

“I don’t have a problem with whatever,” stated Ruiz, prepared to take the offer.

“One moment Ms. Ruiz,” interrupted Judge Tom Dyer. “So, at this point, you can take that offer, so you would plead to shoplifting, you do the neighborhood court, and once that’s completed, the matter is dismissed.

“And basically, then, you come back in six months…you show a piece of paper that you completed the neighborhood court, and this matter is dismissed,” confirmed Judge Dyer.

“I’m glad it’s good today, so that sounds great. Well, every day, but, you know, we’re only living today,” replied defendant Ruiz.

“The only reason why I’m contemplating it is because I’m going to be at the Cottonwood probably for like another month or two until I learn to walk on my leg, and I don’t even have my leg yet.”

“So, I’ll be there a while, and I just don’t want that to conflict with my ‘yes.’ I’m sure it won’t if it’s something simple like this. I’m just scared to like, have it conflict with my ‘yes,’ replied defendant Ruiz hesitantly.

Judge Dyer confirmed, “You said conflict with your ‘yes?’

“Madam, you know what I can do? I can put this matter out for a couple weeks for you to think about it. And then you come back, you can make a phone call on there and hear more if you want to [ask] some specific questions. Would you like to do that?” asked Judge Dyer.

Ruiz let out a sigh, then stated, “I just want to get it taken care of, let’s just say, I’m just going to say yes.”

Judge Dyer went on to advise Ruiz of her rights and informed her that she would waive these rights if she pleads no contest or guilty, which she agreed to do.

“And just so you know, a plea of no contest and a plea of guilty are essentially the same thing,” said Judge Dyer.  “So, to one count of violating misdemeanor section…[of] the penal code that prohibits shoplifting, do you plead no contest?” asked Judge Dyer.

“I plead guilty,” responded Ruiz.

“You plead guilty?” replied Judge Dyer, surprised. Ok, very good.”

“Is that a bad thing?” asked defendant Ruiz.

“It is what it is, you know, I mean, I did it, and I’m so sorry, I’m just so sorry,” said defendant Ruiz sincerely and apologetically.

“I understand madam. So, I’m going to accept your plea of guilty.” Judge Dyer confirmed with defendant Ruiz that she made the plea freely and voluntarily and that she was not under force.

After the plea, Judge Dyer explained, “I’m deferring entering a judgment…because the District Attorney has offered you time to complete this neighborhood court program, and I’m going to give you six months.

“You complete that, your plea today will go away, the matter will be dismissed. Ok? Does that make sense to you?” asked Judge Dyer.

Ruiz agreed, and Judge Dyer dismissed the charges of driving on a suspended license and driving an unregistered vehicle.

A future proceeding is set for Sept. 1 at 9 a.m. in Dept. 1.

Derrick Pal is a fourth-year student at Sacramento State majoring in Criminal Justice and pursuing a minor in Sociology. He is from Elk Grove, California.

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