By Brinda Kalita
VENTURA, CA- The trial for a man charged with driving under the influence of marijuana and methadone proceeded Tuesday in Ventura County Superior Court with testimonies from forensic experts and testimony from the defendant himself.
The first witness called to the stand was Scott Coley, a forensic scientist at the Ventura County Crime Lab.
During Coley’s direct examination, Deputy District Attorney Kelsey Einhorn first asked about the goals of a field sobriety test, a test that was used on the defendant the day the crime took place.
Coley explained field sobriety tests measure three things: a driver’s divided attention, their ability to do physical tasks, and their ability to follow detailed instructions.
Coley added that the ultimate goal of these tests is to measure one’s ability to safely operate a vehicle.
Coley revealed some of the symptoms from taking methadone include generalized nervous system depression, constricted pupils, droopy eyelids, and nodding off while doing tasks.
He then discussed how methadone can impair one’s ability to drive safely as methadone causes sedation and creates issues with balance and coordination.
Coley also added that in addition to marijuana, another drug that was found in the accused’s bloodstream during the time of the accident, the effects of the methadone can get much worse.
In cross-examination, Deputy Public Defender Riley Anapol first asked Coley about how often he gets called to be a witness for the defense.
Coley said it is extremely rare, and that, most of the time, he is a witness for the prosecution.
Coley noted many of the results from the test alone cannot help to determine whether or not the defendant was intoxicated to the point where it would impair his driving.
The next witness called to the stand was another forensic scientist at the Ventura County Crime Lab, who said marijuana has the ability to make the eyes red, dilate pupils, discolor the mouth and tongue, slur speech, and create problems with balance and coordination, all of which can impair driving.
During cross-examination, PD Anapol asked about how much marijuana was needed in order to impair a driver. The expert stated this depended on the form of marijuana you take, and that it can fluctuate based on that.
In his testimony, the accused said he was prescribed the methadone to use for his chronic pain, and has been using it for over three years.
He detailed the night of the car crash from his perspective, noting that after work, his car had been having problems with its brakes. So, when his brakes had given up on him during his night drive, he used “all his force” to get himself off the road. This caused his car to crash.
After the crash, he testified he was in a lot of pain.
However, when the officers came around to assist after the crash and asked him if he needed to be sent to the hospital, he said that he was perfectly fine.
“I told the officers I was not hurt because I did not have insurance and I did not want to go to the hospital. I wanted to get out of there, and so I did everything they asked,” the accused added.
The driver said he was required by the officers to do some field sobriety tests. He admitted that at that point he was confused on how to complete them, but he did not ask any questions and chose to comply with whatever the officers said just so that he could go home.
The accused then added that his breath test came out to 0.0, and that he did not smoke marijuana the day of the incident.
In cross-examination, DDA Einhorn focused on asking about all of the holes in the accused’s testimony versus his report to the officers.
However, the accused stressed once again that he was doing it all so he could avoid getting sent to the hospital and having to pay those bills.
He also clarified that he had smoked weed about two days before the incident, and that is probably where it came up in his drug tests.
But, on the day of the incident, the accused just had the methadone in his system, which he was prescribed to take.