By Annette Wong-Toi
SACRAMENTO, CA – Lai Saeteurn appeared in Sacramento County Superior Court for a probation sentencing following his third DUI offense—this one resulted in injuries while on probation—and despite his attorney presenting community support and personal responsibilities in an effort to keep him out of jail, the defendant was ultimately taken into custody.
According to the court, Saeteurn and three passengers were involved in a car accident with another vehicle, with multiple individuals sustaining various levels of injury. His private attorney, Christopher Parkhurst, came prepared with numerous reasons in support of a probation sentencing.
He first noted the other passengers in the car were his “buddies” from “back in the day,” and that none of them wanted the defendant to go to prison for this. Parkhurst also testified to the defendant’s personal character in his everyday life, mentioning that he takes great care of his 11-year-old son.
Additionally, Parkhurst included letters of support from two of his previous bosses, vouching for his reliability as an employee and responsibility as a citizen overall. They mentioned his activities that supported the community, such as volunteering at food drives and helping the local community center.
Finally, Parkhurst mentioned some of Saeteurn’s personal reasons for wanting to be placed on probation. He was concerned for the well-being of some of his family members; Saeteurn is the caretaker of his severely challenged autistic sister, and has also been looking after his father who recently had surgery on his eyes.
Parkhurst continued to insist that Saeteurn was remorseful for this event, and committed to staying accountable for his previous behavior. “He’s a good guy; he did a bad thing, and he’s aware of it.”
In an attempt to prove his dedication to complying with the court, Saeteurn himself came up with alternatives to being taken into custody. “He came up with the idea that he would wear a SCRAM (Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor) again.”
Representing the People, Deputy District Attorney Heather Phillips noted Saeteurn had already been convicted of two prior DUIs, one of which he was on probation for at the time of this crash. On top of that, his blood alcohol level was measured at 0.25 percent, more than three times the legal limit.
The judge believed that the defendant’s attitude did not outweigh the risks to public safety that he presented.
Judge Patrick Marlette considered his high blood alcohol level, and the violent nature of the crash which resulted in some internal injuries. At the time of the crash, Saeteurn was also already on probation and driving on a license that was suspended because of a previous DUI in 2020.
He then asked about the medical condition of the passengers of the other car.
DDA Phillips commented that a victim had reported minor injuries and complaints of pain, but had not requested transport to a hospital at the scene. The most serious injuries were sustained by Saeteurn’s passengers, with whom he was still on good terms.
DDA Phillips’ recommendation for Saeteurn’s sentencing was that he be taken in on a low term, given his prior history and the victims’ feelings about the case.
Judge Marlette ultimately denied Saeteurn probation—despite Saeteurn and his attorney’s efforts to prove the quality of his character and willingness to comply with any restrictions that would accompany probation, they were unsuccessful in convincing the judge.
Judge Marlette decided that he be taken into custody, placing him on a low term sentence of 16 months.
“It’s unfortunate that he has that situation with the people that depend on him, but the community is at risk if he is out of custody,” said the judge.
Annette Wong-Toi is a third-year student at UC Davis studying Psychology and Communication. If she isn’t learning a new instrument or taking a nap, she’s probably feeding the stray cats outside her apartment. She hopes to develop her listening and communication skills to be a better student, writer, and friend.
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