COURT WATCH: DUI Jury Trial – Defense Claims Vacaville Officer Entrapped Accused,  Should Not Have Allowed Unhoused Man to Drive  

By Avery Redula, Yenah Lee and Madison Whittemore

WOODLAND, CA – A jury trial proceeded here in Yolo County Superior Court Monday for an unhoused man arrested after driving under the influence of alcohol just 30 minutes after being “told” to go ahead and drive by a Vacaville police officer, who admitted on the stand he knew the accused had been drinking.

In the early hours of May 9, Vacaville police officer Jacob Henn testified he responded to a complaint about a man looking into car windows in a shopping center parking lot—business owners were concerned about a potential burglary.

Upon arrival at the scene, Henn said he discovered the accused and another man in a parked car. The accused explained he lives in his car but usually resides in Winters, CA—not Vacaville.

During Deputy Public Defender Peter Borruso’s cross-examination of officer Henn it was revealed Henn had asked the accused if he had been drinking. The accused answered that he had consumed two beers that night, which Henn reportedly joked was “good beer.”

The accused also voluntarily approximated his blood alcohol content (BAC) was 0.07—within the legal limit to drive.

However, under Borruso’s questioning, an expert witness testifying on intoxication explained that guessing one’s own BAC is not a standard or accepted practice, and despite someone knowing their own individual “limit” with alcohol, individuals cannot accurately estimate their own BAC.

Despite acknowledging the accused did admit to drinking, Officer Henn stated he did not remember hearing any slurred language of the accused and did not smell any alcohol on the accused.

Henn also conceded when questioned he did not breathalyze or perform any field sobriety tests on the accused, only referencing the “brief conversation about (the accused) drinking.”

The accused provided Officer Henn with his license, which the officer allegedly ran but returned to the accused shortly after with no concerns—despite the license being suspended.

“I don’t remember what his license status came back as,” Officer Henn stated after being questioned by DPD Borruso as to why he let the accused drive with a suspended license.

After continuing to speak to the accused regarding his beer consumption and concluding his investigation of the original burglary complaint, Henn asked the accused if he was capable of driving, to which the accused responded, “Absolutely.”

“We are going to let you get out of cuffs, get in your car, and drive wherever you got to go. I put everything back on your driver’s seat and then your license is on your passenger’s seat. Drive safe,” Officer Henn concluded, releasing the accused from the back of the patrol car.

The accused was arrested just 30 minutes later in the city of Winters by Officer Brandon Kenne after he saw a white truck make a large, rapid turn into the road’s fog line at about 1:55 a.m.

Officer Kenne testified he recognized the accused as someone who had a suspended license and noted the clear signs of the accused’s intoxication including slurred speech and a noticeable smell of alcohol.

According to Kenne, the accused claimed that he had only had half a drink but Kenne said he breathalyzed the accused and found he had a BAC of 0.14—almost twice California’s legal limit for individuals over 21.

The expert witness on intoxication approximated that, based on body weight, the accused would have had to have seven drinks to reach this BAC, and it would “take anywhere from four and a half hours to 14 hours to reach a BAC of 0.00”—or in other words, for the accused to be completely sober.

DPD Borruso explained that while his client was found by Officer Kenne to be driving under the influence of alcohol, the accused was entrapped by officer Henn—meaning that a normally law-abiding individual is induced into committing a criminal act they otherwise would not have committed because of overbearing harassment, fraud, flattery or threats made by an official police source.

“Vacaville made me drive …Vacaville told me to drive to Winters,” DPD Borruso said, citing a statement made by the accused to Officer Kenne during the DUI investigation.

Borruso also claimed the accused was entrapped into driving under the influence because Officer Henn just wanted the accused to leave the premises of Vacaville since he was unhoused and business owners did not want homeless encampments.

To support his entrapment claim, DPD Borruso also explained there was no proof that the accused had consumed any alcohol in the 30 minutes between 1:27 a.m. when the accused left Vacaville and 1:59 a.m. when the accused was pulled over in Winters.

However, Deputy District Attorney Casper Gorner disputed DPD Borruso’s entrapment argument, claiming Officer Henn did not harass the defendant to drive because the accused ultimately told Henn he was “absolutely” capable of driving.

In his closing argument, DDA Gorner urged jurors to consider what a normal, law-abiding citizen would do after drinking and knowing they possessed a suspended license, noting, “If all he (the accused) was given was the opportunity to drive under the influence or drive with a suspended license, that is not entrapment.”

DPD Borruso countered DDA Gorner’s closing argument by arguing, “Opportunity is not enough, this (situation) wasn’t an opportunity. This was allowing (the accused) to drive under the influence by (Officer Henn’s) words, actions, and the circumstances.”

As his last remark, DPD Borruso urged the jury to consider whether (the accused) would have “gotten into the car and driven back to Winters without the conduct of officer Henn.” He argued the accused would have not have driven.

“Any reasonable officer is not just going to take someone’s word for if they’re okay to drive or not,” DPD Borruso asserted.

DDA Gorner rebutted, explaining to jurors that Officer Henn had no motive to perform sobriety tests on the accused since he was “there looking for a burglary…that’s where their focus goes.” 

Gorner also countered Borruso’s criticism of Officer Henn taking the accused’s word when he previously claimed he was capable of driving.

“Is it so impossible that sometimes cops would believe what a person tells them, especially when they’ve done nothing wrong?” Gorner said to the jury.

Judge Daniel Wolk directed the jurors to deliberate. No verdict was rendered as of end of court business Monday.

About The Author

Madison Whittemore is a rising junior at the University of California, Davis where she studies political science and psychology. After completing her undergraduate studies, Madison wants to go to law school and study criminal law while working to improve efforts for prison reform and representation for lower income citizens.

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