Judge Uses Discretion to Cut Deals, from Infractions to Felonies

By Noe Herrera

SANTA BARBARA, CA – Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Raimundo Montes de Oca this week used his discretion to offer to reduce punishments to those accused—from infractions to felonies—if they admitted guilt.

“AD-1”* was cited for speeding over 100 miles per hour, an infraction in the state of California. AD-1 presented himself without an attorney and pleaded guilty. He said, “Certainly I would like the court to suspend my license only because this is the second ticket I have.”

Judge Montes de Oca interjected, “I don’t normally suspend a person’s license unless that person has a traffic record that has serious offenses.” He added, “Just in case it helps you, I would lower the speed to 90 miles an hour.”

AD-1 responded, “I would still like you to suspend my license… This is my second speeding ticket and when I pleaded guilty to my first speeding ticket and paid the ticket [in Sacramento], two weeks later they sent me a letter [saying] that if I got two speeding tickets within the year, they would suspend my license regardless of what the court did.”

AD-1 insisted, “If I could just have you suspend [my license] and save them the trouble.”

Judge Montes de Oca reluctantly agreed and suspended AD-1’s license for 30 days ,effective Nov. 15. He noted that AD-1 was retired and that he took care of his mother.

Judge Montes de Oca asked what the accused’s monthly income was, and AD-1 responded, “$960 a month, your Honor.”

Judge Montes de Oca fined AD-1 $500, the maximum fine amount for a first offense.

Next, “AD-2”* is accused of possessing a controlled substance, trespassing on private property, and resisting a police officer, all misdemeanors in the state of California. After not appearing in court for his settlement conference, a bench warrant was issued for his arrest.

Deputy Public Defender Giulia Moore requested a bench warrant recall because “he started a new job and with the chaos of that, he did lose contact with my office.”

Judge Montes de Oca recalled the warrant. AD-2 responded, “Thank you, your Honor.”

Judge Montes de Oca said, “I can understand that there was a miscommunication of some sort, so I will give you the benefit of the doubt. However, if it happens again, you are going to have to do a lot better explaining.”

“AD-3″* presented himself on Zoom, a video conferencing platform, from the county jail. The Santa Barbara County Probation Office reported that AD-3 violated his terms of probation by failing to check in with probation officers and by changing his place of residence without letting them know.

AD-3 was convicted of throwing excrement or some kind of bodily fluid at a police officer, which is considered a felony in the state of California.

Judge Montes de Oca offered, “Is there any objection if I simply terminate probation unsuccessfully?”

An unsuccessful termination of probation means that “a probationer’s supervision ended under unfavorable conditions [which may be] valuable information to probation officers and judges who might come into contact with the person in the future,” according to Jamie Markham from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Government.

Neither Deputy Public Defender Brian Mathis nor Deputy District Attorney Justin Greene objected.

Judge Montes de Oca then told AD-3 “if you were to admit that you violated your probation, I would revoke your probation, I would give you credit for time served, and I would terminate your probation today.” He added, “that would be an unsuccessful probation termination. Do you understand?”

AD- replied, “Yes, I do sir.”

Judge Montes de Oca continued, “I only solved half of your problems. The other half is that you are on parole… you are to report to the parole officer as soon as you are released from custody.”

AD-3 said, “So I am free to leave? I get to go home today, sir?”

“I think so,” Judge Montes responded.

NOTE: The names of those accused in this article are not their real names, per The Vanguard’s new policy of not identifying the real names in lower level misdemeanor cases, and infractions. https://www.davisvanguard.org/2021/11/vanguard-to-remove-reference-to-names-of-those-accused-in-court-watch-coverage/ 

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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