Prelim Hearing Ongoing: Judge Quips She ‘Does Not Know What Is Going on with Case’

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By Leslie Acevedo 

MODESTO, CA – A preliminary hearing proceeded here in Stanislaus Superior Court this week, despite the judge claiming he’s not sure what is going on with the case of Joseph Benjamin Barragan, charged with two felonies and one misdemeanor.

Barragan was present with Defense Attorney Paula Christine Moreno. Judge Carrie M. Stephens heard the case, and the prosecutor was Deputy District Attorney Ney Edmundo Montenegro.

DA Montenegro questioned Modesto Police Officer Kyle Johnson, who said a paramedic on scene said the accused “was seated in a Toyota Yaris with the vehicle running, transmission in drive, and [accused’s] foot on the brake.”

According to the officer, “[the accused] appeared disorientated and trying to stay awake.” The accused was “concerned for his children [thinking they were in the vehicle with him].”

The officer conducted a field sobriety test on the accused, starting with the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, and said the accused was not able to follow the stimulus.

The officer requested the accused to do the walk and turn test, but the accused raised concerns over prior back injury. The accused performed the test, but was unable to maintain balance and attempted to start the test too soon, said the officer.

Despite the accused raising concerns about completing the test and prior back injury, evidence was still allowed by the court.

The officer said the accused had difficulty keeping balanced on the “one leg stand” test, and the officer said the accused was then arrested for driving under the influence.

The officer searched the accused, finding “pieces of aluminum foil with burn marks on them, consistent with heroin use, and also found a small plastic container that contained powdered colored heroin or fentanyl. ”

The accused, said the officer, told the officer  the substance in the container  was heroin.

The officer spoke with a senior criminalist, as he prepared the report in regard to blood tests and analysis showing, noting the accused was too impaired to drive on the basis of the toxicology report, performance of field sobriety tests and evidence located at the scene.

The officer was able to obtain the accused’s height and weight through a suspended driver’s license. Despite the driver’s license being suspended, evidence was taken into consideration to prove his guilt.

DA Montenegro presented evidence: Exhibit 1, the report prepared by the senior criminalist after analyzing the accused blood, Exhibit 2 being the accused’s prior DUI conviction, and Exhibit 3 being certified rap sheets of the accused.

Cross-examination of the officer by Defense Attorney Morenos showed the accused was compliant with his orders, cooperative and did not refuse any of the tests.

The officer admitted he was not present when the accused was transported to the hospital and did not observe the blood drop. Despite this, evidence was taken into consideration to prove guilt.

Judge Stephens needed clarification on the docket number and concluded there was one conviction for two DUIs. Judge Stephens said she found sufficient cause that the three separate violations are true, violations have been committed and there was sufficient evidence to believe him to be guilty.

Judge Stephens held the accused will be held to answer at trial to Counts 1 and 2, and a lesser of what is alleged in Count 3.

Defense Attorney Moreno stated that “it was [her] first time speaking with [the accused] today, as [the accused] wanted to resolve today.”

After announcing the possible arraignment date, Judge Stephens said she just doesn’t “know what’s happening with this case.”

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About The Author

Leslie Acevedo is a senior undergraduate student at California State University, Long Beach, majoring in Criminology/Criminal Justice. She intends to pursue a Master's Degree in Forensic Science or Criminal Justice. She aspires to become a forensic investigator.

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