Opening Statements Held in Drunk Driving Misdemeanor Trial – Defense Claims Police Failed to Properly Conduct DUI Tests

By Fiona Davis and Oliver Camarena


WOODLAND, CA – In a pre-trial conference in a DUI jury trial here in Yolo County Superior Court Monday, Deputy District Attorney Gustavo Figueroa attempted to have the accused’s language interpreter removed from the case, claiming the accused did not need one.


And the defense charged police failed to conduct tests properly.


The accused, not named because the charges are misdemeanors, is charged with driving under the influence (DUI) and drunk driving. He has pleaded not guilty to both counts. 


Before the trial or jury selection began, a pre-trial conference was conducted by Judge Tom M. Dyer, who reviewed the logistics of and evidence that would be presented during the jury trial.


In this conference, and in previous hearings for this case, the accused utilized the assistance of a Spanish language interpreter to understand what was said in court.


However, DDA Jose Gustavo Figueroa moved to have the interpreter dismissed, stating the accused understood English and therefore did not require a translator.


“I don’t believe the use of a Spanish language interpreter is warranted in this case,” Figueroa told Judge Dyer. “It’s my understanding that the accused speaks and understands English very well, just from what I’ve seen.”


As part of this motion, the DDA acknowledged that a non-English speaking person has a constitutional right to an interpreter under the California constitution.


However, Figueroa claimed that, because the accused “speaks English … there’s no right for an interpreter” in this case.


In response, Deputy Public Defender Eric Arias objected to this motion, stating that, while his client speaks English, he has a “limited comprehension of English” and is not fully fluent in the language. 


Arias also stated the accused specifically stated that he would prefer to have a Spanish interpreter because “he can pick up a lot of [meaning] but not everything.”


The judge then denied the motion, stating the interpreter could stay during the trial. 


During the conference, the defense and prosecution also discussed the inclusion of “partition ratio evidence,” a ratio measured during a DUI breath test that is meant to reflect how much alcohol the lungs absorbed from the blood. 


PD Arias argued for the inclusion of the evidence, noting that, while the prosecution had pushed to dismiss, and the Supreme Court has said that part of the partition ratio evidence is admissible, other parts of the evidence have been determined to be admissible.


“The evidence is relevant, and it goes to show whether or not the BAC they’re claiming [the accused] had is actually his BAC,” Arias told the court. 


In response, Judge Dyer stated that he needed more time before ruling on the matter, telling the defense and prosecution that he would  “come back on this issue a little bit later.”


Following the pre-trial conference, the trial began with opening statements from DDA Figueroa and Public Defender Arias. 


In his opening statement, Figueroa detailed the events from Oct. 30, 2021, saying that in the early morning, CHP officers responded to a call regarding a crash east of Woodland.


Officers, he said, were flagged down by a man on the side of the road who led them to a crash site. The CHP Officers then contacted and turned the case over to Woodland police officers who gave the accused a DUI test following signs, they said, that he was intoxicated.


According to Figueroa, the breathalyzer gave a blood alcohol reading of .15, almost two times the legal limit. Figueroa then said that the accused was arrested, taken to a hospital to check on his injuries following the car crash, and then taken to the Woodland Police Department.


Figueroa holds that the evidence provided will prove to the jury that the accused is guilty on both counts.


In response, PD Arias said, in his opening statement, the police investigation was botched and that the breath sample taken contaminated.


He claimed that in the early morning following the crash, the accused made his way to a highway and was able to flag down CHP officers and bring them to the crash site before Woodland police took over.


Arias claims that the DUI tests were not properly administered and that through the course of the trial the jury is going to learn what is done during a DUI test to ensure an accurate result and how those steps were not taken during this incident.


Arias holds that his client is not guilty.


The first witness called was Officer Shaun Kattenhorn, who said he had to get assistance from his partner to properly administer the DUI tests because he only had a year of experience at the time of the arrest in this case.


Kattenhorn said he noticed several things that stood out to him such as the guardrail that had been damaged as well as an overturned Chevy in a ditch, and confirmed there was no one else in the area, no one else in the car, and that the accused was the only occupant that had been driving the vehicle when it crashed.


Kattenhorn said the accused remembered hitting a curb, the car flipping, and ending up in the ditch during his initial arrest.


However, Kattenhorn said there were several signs, such a slurred speech, an unsteady gaze, and bloodshot eyes that made him suspicious that the accused was driving under the influence.


He said he then conducted the field sobriety tests and determined that it was likely that the accused was intoxicated, and gave him a breathalyzer to reveal that showed the accused had a blood alcohol level of .15.


Kattenhorn’s body cam footage, he confirmed, showed some of the “stumbles” that he saw the accused make when performing tests as well as the setup of the breathalyzer.


The trial is set to proceed throughout the week.

About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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