Defense Attorney Believes Defendant Memory Loss Can Trigger Dismissal

By Beth Miller

FRESNO, CA – On Nov. 25, 2019 Randy Garcia was booked into custody for a possible driving under the influence (DUI) after crashing into a tree in front of his home in Kerman—later, he was charged with a misdemeanor for driving while under the influence of a drug.

But this week, at trial—18 months after the incident—his defense counsel, Jake Leitner-Zieff, filed a motion in Fresno County Superior Court to dismiss on a speedy trial violation.

According to Deputy District Attorney Carly Bruce, Garcia’s blood test showed 8.26 percent meth, reaching toxic levels. Additionally, Bruce said her facts showed that Garcia had told police officers on scene that he had “smoked a bunch of meth that day” and that he wanted to go home.

According to Garcia, the car had a small dent. However, DDA Lauren Meegan described the incident as a “major traffic collision.” DDA Meegan cross-examined Garcia during the trial.

However, Garcia was unable to recall a significant amount of information regarding the incident on Nov. 25, testifying he could not remember hitting a tree, talking to police officers, signing a consent form to give a blood sample to officers, or where he was coming from.

“I just remember waking up in the Fresno County Jail,” he said.

After the incident, Garcia spent nine days in jail and was released on Dec. 5, 2019. Within two weeks after being released from jail, Garcia’s probation officer told him he had a warrant out on him for a missed court date. Garcia immediately booked a day in court for his first appearance.

The DUI case was filed on Oct. 29, 2020, and an arrest warrant was issued for Garcia Dec. 8, 2020. Garcia placed himself on the court’s calendar two days later and scheduled his first appearance for Jan. 29, 2021. There was roughly a three-month period of time between the filing date and Garcia’s first appearance.

Ultimately, Judge Diaz denied the defense’s motion to dismiss stating, “In this court’s opinion there wasn’t really a delay… he did timely assert his speedy trial rights as this motion was filed within a few months of his first initial appearance.”

Leitner-Zieff brought to the court’s attention his concern regarding prejudice in this case as to Garcia’s memory loss regarding the incident that had taken place on Nov. 25, which occurred 18 months prior to the trial on this past Tuesday.

“I believe that actual prejudice has been shown here, the CA Supreme Court has deemed faded memory and memory loss actual prejudice. Here, Mr. Garcia was unable to remember whether he spoke with police, he was also unable to remember where he was upon the arrival of the police. Mr. Garcia’s testimony stated that he was in the car, in the driver’s seat when the police arrived, that is not what’s alleged in the police report,” said defense counsel Leitner-Zieff.

DDA Meegan disagreed.

During cross-examination, Garcia said that he had been read the police report on the events that occurred Nov. 25, 2019 via the phone by his defense council. He also said that he was not given the opportunity to review his blood sample consent form.

“I would also argue that having a report read to you by your counsel is different than getting to review it in paper and with counsel himself, and so I don’t believe that Mr. Garcia’s made ample effort to even refresh his recollection,” said DDA Meegan.

Judge Diaz agreed with DDA Meegan and did not find prejudice in the court as Garcia was able to testify to specific details about the incident.

For instance, Garcia was able to remember that he was driving his mother’s car, where he was driving to, and that there was a car accident involving a tree which caused minor damage to his mother’s car.

Judge Diaz said, “…this court does not believe that there is in fact substantial memory loss as to this incident, and for that reason and weighing all the factors, find in favor of the people.”

After Judge Diaz denied the motion to dismiss, Garcia made the decision to change his plea to no contest to the misdemeanor charge.

Garcia has two prior drug related-offenses from 2006 and 2007, but did not incur any cases between 2019 and the date of trial.

Garcia was sentenced to 180 days in Fresno County Jail, three years on formal misdemeanor probation, a $1,945 fine, a $150 probation revocation fine, and an order to enroll in a DUI program class.

He will only be required to serve 17 days in jail if he follows the terms of his probation. Judge Diaz also agreed to decrease the fines by half, provided Garcia completes the Decisions for Life class.

Beth Miller is a junior at UC Davis studying Public Service and Gender Studies. She is from Ventura, California, and aspires to promote justice and equality in a continuously evolving society.

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