Judge Reduces Sentences for Drivers Who Plead to DUI Charges; Repeat Offender Still Gets 135 Days

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By Noe Herrera

MODESTO, CA – Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Dawna Reeves earlier this week heard two no contest pleas from drivers accused of driving while intoxicated, including one man who had two prior convictions of the same crime.

Because of the plea, one driver will spend only a few days in jail on top of other fines and orders—but the other repeat DUI offender, despite the plea, was sentenced to several months in jail.

Naline Lata Lal pleaded “no contest” to two charges of driving under the influence (DUI) including one for driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level higher than .08 and another for driving with a BAC greater than .15, nearly twice the legal limit.

Judge Reeves said “the agreement is that [Lal] will serve three years in probation, two days in custody, complete the level one drinking drivers program, and pay the standard fees.”

Judge Reeves read aloud warnings to Lal, asking, “Do you also understand that a DUI is priorable, meaning that today’s conviction can be used against you in the future to increase the punishment if you get another one? Do you understand that driving under the influence is considered to be an inherently dangerous act? If you do drive under the influence and someone gets killed because of your conduct, you can be charged with murder.” The defendant responded “yes” to all these questions.

In another DUI case, Dax Lee Ulch pleaded “no contest” to having a BAC of .24, three times the legal limit, with two prior convictions for DUI in 2011.

According to Judge Reeves, the terms of his agreement were “that Mr. Ulch plead no contest [to driving with a BAC greater than .08] and to admit to two priors and admit that his BAC was greater than .15 percent or higher.

“In exchange for that, he will receive five years of informal probation, 135 days in the county jail, he will have to complete the level two DUI program, he will be labeled as a ‘habitual traffic offender, he is subject to an ignition interlock device with standard fines and fees,” according to Judge Reeves.

Judge Reeves also warned Ulch that if he were to be arrested for DUI again, he would be charged with a felony.

Both Lal and Ulch are to follow all court orders and the law while in probation. They are not allowed to drive “with any measurable amount of alcohol in [their] blood.”

Judge Reeves ordered Lal and Ulch to pay $1,823 in total fees for restitution and to turn themselves in to the county jail “no later than Jan. 14, 2022.” Ulch was also ordered to enroll in the level two DUI program.

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About The Author

Noe is a senior-standing undergraduate at UCSB majoring in the History of Public Policy and Law. He aspires to attend law school and focus on education policy.

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