Judge Frustrated by Multiple DUI Charges Facing Driver Who Can’t Find AA Meeting

By S. Priana Aquino

FRESNO, CA – A man here—alongside a Punjabi translator—appeared in Fresno County Superior Court Friday for a continuance for his driving under the influence charge.

(Note: The Vanguard does not usually disclose the names of those charged with misdemeanors and instead will refer to them as the accused.)

The Public Defender’s Office had previously entered into a conditional agreement where the accused would stay out on bail providing he obeyed court orders and attended AA meetings.

However, the public defender stated that, while the accused had completed 52 weeks of meetings, he did not have a certificate of proof.

The defense further explained that the reason for this lack of certification was the accused had difficulty finding Punjabi AA meetings and therefore could not participate because of the language barrier.

To compensate, he had signed up for community service in his church, which the defense sought to substitute for his AA meetings.

However, Judge Jonathan Conklin did not approve, and said the accused would need to complete something online and that any community service could not count.

Judge Conklin also told the defense that the accused also had a new misdemeanor DUI, of which the defense was unaware, noting, “It’s a problem that he’s showed he’s continued to drink.”

While trying to understand more about the case, the defense revealed that Feb. 26, 2021, was the date of the DUI the accused was originally being charged for, almost a whole year since Friday morning’s hearing.

Judge Conklin continued to shake his head, looking frustrated about the situation over Zoom. The accused’s court translator asked to comment on the status of the accused’s case, saying, “I was on his misdemeanor. It has been continued to know what’s going on in this department.”

This inherently increased the pressure for Judge Conklin to make a decision as other charges on the accused’s already prolonged case were depending on its resolution. “The tail’s wagging the dog here,” Conklin said. “These cases are chasing each other.”

After a few moments of silence and consideration, Judge Conklin came to a decision.

“You are to attend AA meetings,” the judge said. “I believe that there are meetings with Punjabi translators,” mandating the accused to continue his search for an AA program that he would be able to participate.

Conklin’s last stipulation to the accused was “you are not to consume alcohol at all.” To this, the accused nodded. His case is set to be reviewed March 4.

About The Author

S. Priana Aquino is a rising Senior at the University of San Francisco, majoring in Business with minors in Legal Studies and Public Service & Community Engagement. Upon graduation, she hopes to attend law school and continue her work in uplifting and advocating for communities of color.

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