By Gracy J & Alexis R.
VENTURA, CA – A woman was found guilty in Ventura County Superior Courtroom this week after a misdemeanor jury trial for two counts related to drunk driving, according to Deputy District Attorney Julia McAndrew. The Vanguard won’t name her because both charges were misdemeanors.
The defense insisted there was a difference between a “driver” and “driving” because officers found her stopped, not driving, while drunk. The jury didn’t buy it.
DDA McAndrew opened by recounting the details of the accused’s arrest, outlining how she’d allegedly been found by the officer at a freeway off-ramp sitting in her vehicle, engine running, pulled over on a dirt patch.
The DDA noted to the jury that “it was clear from the defense’s cross-examination that the argument he is going to make… the only argument he’s got, is that no one saw his client move the wheels of her vehicle”
According to DDA McAndrew, the accused’s speech was allegedly slurred, eyes red and watery, and she smelled of alcohol with a BAC “almost three times the limit.”
However, there was no breathalyzer or blood test administered at the scene, but the officer report indicated she failed a field sobriety test including a Horizontal Nystagmus Test, said the prosecutor.
DDA McAndrew argued “if you can’t walk in a straight line or follow instructions” you are endangering everyone by driving a car.
According to the officer, the driver had “odd” behavior at the time of the arrest; She was barefoot and claimed to be a popular social media figure making several thousands of dollars off of her content, adding at first that she had not consumed any alcohol then changed her answer to having had one IPA beer.
DDA McAndrew argued that since her BAC was 0.207, it would have taken approximately 7.5 beers to get to that point.
Eventually, Deputy Public Defender Justin Bendana objected to information on one of the slides shown to the jury.
There was an abrupt, yet brief dismissal of the jury for a few minutes so the attorneys and Judge Ryan J. Wright could discuss. In particular, the defense contested the argument on what it means to drive.
When no jury was present, PD Bendana said, “I would argue that there is a difference between driving and driver,” adding a person who is in physical control of operating the vehicle is to drive and not necessarily a driver.
Judge Wright overruled the objection, but PD Bendana brought up another objection regarding the 911 incident.
Judge Wright said that “this is why I wanted to talk about the slides ahead of time.”
DDA McAndrew and PD Bendana had access to the slides beforehand.
Judge Wright said, “We keep using the time of those 911 calls as the time the accused drove and there is absolutely zero evidence of that.”
The judge said he was going to tell the jury the time of the 911 calls “does not prove and cannot prove as a matter of law, what time the accused was driving.”
The jury returned and PD Bendana said that “no one should be convicted of a crime without sufficient evidence that a crime occurred… client statements alone are not enough to convict someone.”
He added that “the district attorney cannot have her cake and eat it too… They are trying to get you to believe the accused was lying about her drinking pattern and also wants you to believe the story that she gave.”
He argued again that a client’s statement alone is not enough to convict someone, noting, “They [prosecution] are trying to get you to infer she was driving under the influence, but she was sitting parked…it’s not unreasonable for someone to just sit in their car being intoxicated.”