By Angie Madrid
VENTURA, CA — While Judge Julia Snyder from Ventura County Superior Court was reluctant to assign work release for defendant Chelsea Morgan Kennedy after she violated her probation trying to drive intoxicated, the judge also showed sympathy, emphasizing, “What I prefer is to see people succeed.”
On August 13, 2015, Kennedy was convicted of a DUI, driving while having a 0.08% or higher percentage of alcohol in her blood stream. She was given probation for the next five years, although it was extended after further violations.
Kennedy appeared at court on Tuesday for a bench warrant hold after she had not appeared in court, while also failing to pay her fees and fines, not completing DUI school, and committing other violations of probation.
Judge Snyder recalled the bench warrant while Deputy Public Defender Noelle Tamayo explained Kennedy was approved for work release.
Snyder quickly interrupted Tamayo, stating, “Well, we have a couple of other things here.”
While looking over the defendant’s violations and record, Snyder noted that the defendant was still using an intoxilyzer. An intoxilyzer is a breath test which tests and measures alcohol levels in a person’s system.
After analyzing the facts of the case, Snyder seemed conflicted, stating that 20 days of work release was a bad idea in her opinion.
Realizing the judge’s reluctance, Public Defender Tamayo suggested the court impose less than 20 days. Yet the judge shown her disapproval further, asserting, “I don’t know if I would though.”
As Tamayo began to reply, Snyder interrupted, reiterating the facts of the case out loud: “She was pending this violation of probation, failed to appear for quite some time. So the first one of these started in 2017 and it was filed for not paying fines and fees. She didn’t show up, warrant was issued, but then they amended to allege she also didn’t do the DUI program.
“She was cited to appear on the warrant, nothing. They amended it again to allege all of the drinking allegations and driving allegations. And then she showed up, or at least somebody appeared for her sometime last year. While pending that violation of probation, she added a few more to the intox,” finished the judge.
Before the public defender could answer, Judge Snyder explained her reluctance to grant fewer days of work release, asserting, “That’s what’s concerning me. While she knows she is on probation and while she knows she has these outstanding violations of probations for just the administrative stuff, you know the fines and the not doing the school, that we could’ve fixed really easily.”
Judge Snyder adds, “She doubles down and violates probation aggressively. In pretty much the worst possible way you can violate your second time DUI probation, by drinking and trying to drive while she knows she is pending current violations of probation.”
Snyder, disappointingly explained, “That is upsetting. Although I could completely agree I could give her less time, under those circumstances, I am hard pressed to figure out a reason why I should.”
Trying to resolve Snyder’s reluctance, Tamayo noted defendant Kennedy’s willingness to take the 20 days of work release.
Judge Snyder remained concerned, asking, “Don’t you think there’s a greater chance that she’s not going to be able to sustain 20 days of work release and it’s gonna get converted? We see people in here who don’t do their work release, and they got one day. I see it more often than not.”
Snyder continued to express her opinion as she was determined to eliminate the worst case scenario and “pick the most successful option.”
Finally, Snyder directed her concern to the defendant herself, as she was present in court.
Judge Snyder expressed, “It’s time to (be an) adult. That’s the bottom line here. We need to get back on the right track here. The key to doing that is to get this situation behind you. Only way to do this is finish this and get it behind you.”
Taking into consideration Kennedy’s failure to appear in court and the DUI program, the judge declared, “You go off the grid and let other things distract you. They might be legitimate. I’m aware life happens and it gets in the way a lot. It happens to everybody. But this is a serious situation that is probably dragging you down, weighing heavy in your mind, on your shoulders, in your heart.”
Although demonstrating reluctance throughout the hearing, Judge Snyder also showed sympathy by wishing Kennedy success.
“Only way to get out is making this a priority and getting it behind you. It’s not going to happen if you pretend that you can be distracted by other things that are problematic in your life. I believe you that other things are probably problematic in your life. But you need to handle this and you will be well enough to handle other things,” the judge said.
Defendant Kennedy appeared remorseful as she agreed with a quiet voice.
The judge fully exerted her influence by reiterating the impact of the defendant’s actions.
“This is dragging you down. And this will be a very heavy weight on you. You won’t be able to fix other stuff until you put this behind you. We need to get to the route to what this problem is here. The only thing that you did right was have that intoxilyzer on. We could be looking for a third, fourth, or maybe felony land that is prison eligible.”
Before stating her decision, Snyder emphasized that Kennedy would not receive a second chance and time could be increased if she did not follow the law, emphasizing Kennedy needed to commit to her probation and work release.
“The reason why I’m being clear, possibly harsh, is because I actually do want to see you succeed. What I don’t love to do is remand people. I don’t love to see people fail. What I prefer is to see people succeed, and the way people succeed is when they know very clearly what is expected of them and know what the consequences are if they don’t do it,” said the judge.
Kennedy was given 20 days in work release and must show proof of completion by Jan. 10, 2022, two months prior to her completion of probation.