Prolonging of Completion of Alcohol Program Causes Tension in Courtroom

By Naomi Cherone

RIVERSIDE—A defendant tried negotiating her way out of fees, and provided tepid explanations as to why she could not sign up for the alcohol program that had been ordained for her to complete a year ago.

The defendant, Shiquela Deborah Marie Usher, had her license suspended due to DUI charges, and was initially given 45 days to sign up for an alcohol program. She claimed to have not been able to because of time issues and money constraints.

Usher spent most of her hearing trying to negotiate with Judge Judith Fouladi, by attempting to sneak her way out of having her fees increased or having to do jail time.

At the start of the case in 2020, Judge Fouladi was lenient when working with the defendant’s financial situation by lessening many of the fees that are otherwise imposed on those who have been charged with a DUI.

Fouladi was also aware of her disposition in working with Usher’s financial crises, but had been expecting that Usher would have put in her part as well.

The defendant mentioned several times that she was just not able to go sign up for the course because of several circumstances, and had been inquiring for an extension—a last extension.

“You understand your license is still suspended, right? As long as you keep prolonging taking the program, your suspension keeps extending indefinitely,” said Judge Fouladi to Usher.

Previously, Fouladi gave Usher 45 days to sign up for the program when she presented her plea in September of 2020. From then, to Wednesday, Judge Fouladi had evidently been expecting some action in this respect, and was bothered by Usher’s inaction.

Usher continued to ask the judge to give her one more opportunity, and that this time she would be sure to sign up for the class; however, she mentioned that the financial barrier would still impede her from being able to afford the class.

“That is no longer within my jurisdiction. There is a per session fee and it is a three-month program,” said Judge Fouladi, while pointing out that she had already reduced all of the fees imposed by the courts so the defendant would be able to afford the class that would allow her to get back to driving on the road.

In an attempt to look at what other fees could be reduced, Judge Fouladi stated, “I will suspend all fees but I can’t suspend the DUI fine, I can convert to extra 21 days of jail time though.”

The judge went on to say that if Usher decided to take on the jail time instead of paying for the DUI fine, there is a high probability that she would just be let free because of jail overcrowding issues.

“We take you in, you’d be sent downstairs and then they would probably just release you right then and there… that is likely what will happen,” pointed out Judge Fouladi.

“That’s just the reality of how jail time would work right now, because they can’t keep as many people in because the jail is overcrowded,” the judge continued.

Usher agreed to this arrangement, and conceded to doing jail time, instead of having increased fees without the means to afford them.

Every other fee was suspended and Judge Fouladi stated that there had now been a balance of zero left for Usher to pay. The DUI fine of $1703 was therefore converted to an added 13 consecutive days of jail time.

Usher seemed complacent with the changes put forward by Judge Fouladi, and agreed to sign up for the alcohol program.

Usher was asked to return for the surrender date of July 19 for a check-in, and a later date was set in August as well.

“I am bringing her back another time in order for her to bring proof of her enrollment in the alcohol program. She is to appear August 16 with that proof of enrollment,” said Judge Fouladi.

Judge Fouladi also accepted the People’s motion to withdraw probation, and hoped to receive proof of Usher’s enrollment in the alcohol program in July or August.

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