Not Guilty Plea Entered In DUI Highway Crash Case – Only ‘Victim’ Was Highway Sign

By Natalia Claburn

SACRAMENTO, CA – A suspected drunk driver is facing trial here in Sacramento County Superior Court after a police officer Tuesday described the only real damage the driver allegedly did was to a roadside sign last year when he had an accident late at night.

Police officers were dispatched to a highway in Sacramento County late at night after defendant Omar Desmond – allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol – crashed into a sign on the highway where no one was injured.

Deputy District Attorney Celeena Wall called the first and only witness, Officer Joshua Nelson for this preliminary hearing, asking Nelson to describe the scene and details of the crash.

The officer said that on June 13, 2020, “a silver Toyota Corolla had collided into a big freeway sign…and it went down in the road and there was a disabled vehicle on the roadway.”

Nelson explained that “quite a bit of people stopped” on the shoulder of the highway to check on the defendant after the crash and since Desmond’s car was the only one involved and “he was the only one inside the vehicle during the time of the crash,” though no one was hurt.

When Wall inquired about how Nelson identified Desmond as the driver, Nelson stated “I did speak to a witness out on the scene and they confirmed that they talked to [Desmond] in the driver’s seat after he had crashed into the sign…and he also was in possession of the ignition key in his pants pocket.”

Nelson continued, saying that the defendant’s initial recollection of the crash was that he was “traveling southbound down 99 in the number two lane about 70 [mph]. He saw some debris or sign in the road and tried to brake, but he ended up hitting the debris.”

Nelson said “I could smell the strong odor of alcohol on his person, he had bloodshot eyes, and his speech was slightly slurred,” and that he found Desmond’s driver’s license had been revoked, meaning he had not only been driving drunk but also driving with a suspended license due to multiple previous DUI convictions.

Nelson noted that despite his previous DUI convictions, Desmond’s car “was not equipped with an ignition interlock device” which is a breathalyzer for an individual’s vehicle that has to show no signs of alcohol through a blood alcohol concentration or BAC test for the ignition to start.

Officer Nelson said the defendant did “admit to having two beers” before driving. However, in his admission, he stated that he drank those beers on Friday even though the crash had occurred late Saturday night. So, he was saying that he “drank the day prior but not earlier [on the day of the crash].”

DDA Wall continued the questioning, asking which field sobriety tests had been conducted. Nelson began with the “horizontal gaze nystagmus test” which looks for lack of smooth pursuit of one’s vision which the defendant failed.

He also conducted the Modified Romberg Balance test which studies body language and unusual movements such as eyelid tremors that Desmond had when he closed his eyes. Another sign of intoxication that Nelson noticed was that “he did sway in a circular rotation.”

There was also a finger touch test conducted which reaffirmed Nelson’s certainty that the defendant was under the influence of a substance as he skipped over fingers and could not fully comprehend Nelson’s instructions.

Nelson revealed that the defendant submitted to a Pas, also known as a Preliminary Alcohol Screening. The first test which was conducted at 12:09 a.m. showed Desmond’s BAC to be 0.207 percent. The second Pas was administered at 12:11 a.m. and showed a BAC of 0.208%. The legal BAC that drivers are supposed to abide by is no more than 0.08%.

A witness from the highway who had pulled off into the right shoulder to check on Desmond told Nelson that she had been driving behind the Toyota Corolla that the defendant was driving, and that the car was “driving in all lanes and onto the shoulder” and then “swerved and collided into the sign.”

In Public Defender Yee’s cross-examination, Nelson explained that no video footage from the scene was used to type the report and no video footage is being submitted to the court for this case.

After reviewing the evidence, Judge Jonathan Hayes found Desmond should stand trial, setting a Nov. 22 start date.

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