By Lois Yoo and Raïssa Ngoma
ALAMEDA, CA – Whether Francisco Antonio Hernandez-Coreas totally understood what he was being asked to do by officers was an issue here in the Alameda County Superior Court late Friday during a probable cause hearing regarding an alleged speeding and driving under the influence charge from June 14, 2020.
An officer at the scene testified that the defendant’s gray sedan passed his vehicle on the highway at “a high rate of speed.” According to one of the officers, the defendant had no driver license and no identification card when he was pulled over.
The officer shared that the defendant was driving at approximately 96 mph, 30 mph more than the maximum speed limit of 65 mph. Prior, the defendant had testified that he was going below the speed limit at 63 mph.
In a video evidence presented in court, the officer could be heard repeatedly shouting to the defendant, “Left turn.” The defendant was instructed by two officers to take the next exit off the highway so they could check on him.
Judge James Cramer acknowledged the frustrated officer, suggesting that the officer had been trying to get Hernandez-Coreas to pull over for some time.
When the defendant finally pulled over, officers noted that the defendant had a strong alcohol odor and red watery eyes, which led one of the officers to ask the defendant to step out of his vehicle for a sobriety test.
According to the officer, the defendant performed poorly and admitted roughly nine hours, at around 4 a.m., following his arrest to having had two Modelos (beer) at 7 p.m.
Video evidence presented before Judge Cramer showed that, before starting the test, the officer had asked the defendant whether or not he was ill, diabetic, injured, epileptic, when he had his last meal, and whether he had adequate sleep.
The defendant notified the officer that he was headed home and had not been drinking other than the Modelos. However, during the sobriety test the defendant “stepped off line and took the wrong amount of steps,” said one officer.
One of the two officers also directed the defendant to participate in the one-leg stand test, and offered a voluntary alcohol screening test, which the defendant refused.
Judge Cramer questioned whether the officer properly demonstrated these tests, and whether he had probable cause to arrest the defendant.
After the tests were conducted, the officer felt that he had probable cause to arrest the defendant and he “formed the opinion [that] he [the defendant] was driving his vehicle under the influence of alcohol.”
Defense Attorney Erin Ryan quickly refuted the officer’s claim, noting the officers only spent about 35 seconds before flashing lights and pulling the defendant over. Ryan also pointed out that the defendant does not fully understand English, so the test should have been conducted in Spanish or translated by an officer who could communicate with Hernandez-Coreas in Spanish.
Ryan also claimed that the defendant’s slurred speech presented in one of the evidence videos was most likely due to his speaking in Spanish. He argued that when the defendant “speaks in English, it’s heavily, heavily accented.”
Although Hernandez-Coreas responded to all of the officer’s questions, the defendant still informed the officer that he could not fully understand English.
Nevertheless, one of the officers said that they did not begin the tests until the defendant could fully understand what he was being instructed to do. The officer recalled that the defendant “appeared to understand,” and “managed to maintain conversation.”
Defense Attorney Ryan replied, “But you also know from your training that the basis of these three tests require that they be conducted after the individual taking the test fully understands, right?”
“Correct,” replied Officer Clark, who said his duty partner properly translated and communicated the defendant’s arrest and tests in Spanish.
Judge Cramer’s final conclusion was that the defendant “was going well above the speed limit,” and that the officer was justified in the defendant’s arrest. The speeding itself was reason enough to pull the defendant over and arrest him for a DUI.