By Derrick Pal
FRESNO, CA — Apparently concerned about the path a young 21-year-old defendant is headed with charges of driving under the influence, a judge attempted to have a heart-to-heart conversation to get through to him in an arraignment here in Fresno County Superior Court Monday.
It was a long heart-to-heart.
Defendant Alejandro Hernandez is charged with driving a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs and driving with a suspended license.
Judge William Terrence began the arraignment, asking if the defendant was entering a plea to the charges freely and voluntarily, to which defendant Hernandez agreed.
“As to the charge in Count 1, which alleges that you violated the vehicle code commonly referred to as driving a motor vehicle under the influence of a drug, how do you plead to that charge, sir?” asked Judge Terrence.
“Guilty,” responded defendant Hernandez.
“Mr. Hernandez, sir, additionally the People have alleged in Count 1 that you were previously convicted of a violation…and that conviction took place back on Dec. 4, 2019, out of the Fresno Superior Court,” stated Judge Terrence.
“As it relates to that allegation, do you admit or deny that prior conviction?” which defendant Hernandez admitted.
“Mr. Hernandez, it’s also been alleged in this case, sir, that you have violated your probation terms in your old case in that you have failed to obey all laws. Do you understand, sir, that you have a right to a hearing on that probation violation?”
Judge Terrence explained the rights the defendant would waive in the probation violation hearing when taking the plea, which defendant Hernandez agreed to.
Deputy District Attorney Brian Exline explained the factual basis of the case, stating, “Your Honor, the reason for the stop in the new case was to deal with a traffic collision with two parked vehicles.
“He did have marijuana in his system, that was what the drug was. He was on DUI probation. It should also be noted, he had the prior DUI in 2019, and this DUI before he was 21 years old,” stated DDA Exline.
Judge Terrence stated that the defendant is sentenced to 364 days in the Fresno County Jail, but he was staying all but 25 days of it, and ordered “three years of informal misdemeanor probation under the following terms and conditions,” including obeying all federal, state, and local laws, not to drive a motor vehicle unless properly licensed and insured.
The defendant was additionally ordered to not drive a motor vehicle with any measurable amount of alcohol in his system and submit to a chemical test for BAC or drug content on any future DUI arrest.
“Mr. Hernandez, do you recall reviewing and reading the potential murder liability section on the change of plea form that you just filled out?” asked Judge Terrence, which defendant Hernandez confirmed.
“Mr. Hernandez, sir, you are 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,” explained Judge Terrence.
“If you continue to drive while under the influence, and as a result of your driving, someone is killed, you could be charged with murder,” he added.
“Mr. Hernandez, sir, if the alarm bell isn’t going off in your head about some decisions you have been making here, sir, I don’t know another way to get your attention aside from placing you in custody,” emphasized Judge Terrence.
“Sir, you’re 21 years old, you’re before the court now with two different convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol or a drug. And, Mr. Hernandez, that murder admonishment that I just gave you, you indicated you understood that is that correct?” which the defendant replied that he did.
“I want to explain to you the legal significance of that, and unfortunately, this court had an individual before the court that was standing exactly where your two feet are right now,” said Judge Terrence.
“About four months ago, a defendant was in here and indicated they acknowledged the potential murder liability, and that individual is alleged to have gone out and drank again, and unfortunately, three of that person’s friends were killed in a car accident about a month ago.
“And the very sad part about that, Mr. Hernandez, not only is it that the victims are now essentially gone forever, but this individual also now faces three counts of murder because they acknowledged in this courtroom that they understood that potential murder liability,” stated Judge Terrence.
“And it wasn’t that that individual meant to hurt anyone in that collision, it is just that drinking and being under the influence of drugs while driving a motor vehicle is so dangerous that the legislator requires me to advise you of that potential murder liability. Mr. Hernandez, I hope that this case has your attention, sir,” noted the judge.
The judge wasn’t through.
“And more than anything, Mr. Hernandez, I want to hear from you about what you’re doing with your life, whether it’s work or school, or whatever is keeping your time busy, but sir I am very concerned that you have two cases now that you’re on probation for.
“And given the allegations in this case, I’m going to check in with you on Aug. 30 to see how you’re doing. Thank you, Mr. Hernandez. Good luck to you,” ended Judge Terrence, hoping he was able to get through.
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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