COURT WATCH: Physical Impairment Overlooked during Field Sobriety Test, Officer Unaware of NHTSA Protocol, Trial Court Told

LOS ANGELES- CA, MARCH 2: Los Angeles Superior Court Stanley Mosk Courthouse March 2, 2004 in Los Angeles Hills, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***

By Sarah Chayet

VAN NUYS, CA – In closing arguments at trial here in Los Angeles County Superior Court Tuesday, Deputy Public Defender Eidah Hilo argued the accused, who was charged with a misdemeanor driving under the influence/DUI, was not given a proper investigation in accordance with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The DPD said the officer on the scene, who also omitted the accused’s “flat feet” condition from their report, told the jury the accused should not be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The accused was investigated by the Los Angeles Police Dept. officer after he allegedly sideswiped the mirror of an Amazon vehicle that was parked more than 36 inches from the curb. DPD Hilo argued the vehicle was “illegally parked,” blocking the majority of the lane.

“(The officer) did not canvass the area for additional witnesses,” said DPD Hilo. “He was done with the investigation in 20 minutes.”

During the officer’s investigation, the accused voluntarily participated in the field sobriety test (FST), the preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) breathalyzer test, and the electrochemical sensor/infrared sensor (EC/IR) breath test.

Both times, the accused blew a blood alcohol level of .12, .04 above the legal limit of .08. DPD Hilo made the distinction that the accused was not required to cooperate during these tests.

“(The accused’s) demeanor was never belligerent…he provided the FST,” said DPD Hilo. “He was not mentally impaired…mental impairment precedes physical impairment.”

DPD Hilo also voiced concerns about the absence of footage from the officer’s body-worn camera, noting, “There is no video of the test performance, the prosecution did not show that,” said DPD Hilo. “(The prosecution) cherry-picked evidence.”

According to DPD Hilo, the accused suffers from a condition called “flat feet.” DPD Hilo said the officer did not account for this condition while he administered the FST, nor did he include it in the physical section of the report.

“(The officer) lied by omission about the physical impairment,” said DPD Hilo.  “(The accused) told the officer he had flat feet, but that didn’t make it into the report.” DPD Hilo claimed the accused only had issues with the parts of the FST that required foot movement.

During the FST, the accused “made an improper turn…he shuffled his feet,” said DPD Hilo. “He missed heel-to-toe in one step out of 18 steps.” DPD Hilo also stated the accused stepped off of the line–which he was directed to walk on during the FST–three out of 18 times.

When asked if the FST was done in line with NHTSA requirements, DPD Hilo reported the officer allegedly said, “I don’t know what NHTSA requires. I follow LAPD procedures.”

“(The officer) had never read the NHTSA DUI FST Manual,” said DPD Hilo.

DPD Hilo called the prosecution criminalist, Melissa Kramer-Sarrett, a “queen of assumptions,” and argued her testimony was biased. According to DPD Hilo, Kramer-Sarrett is employed by LAPD.

“Part of (Kramer-Sarrett’s) job involves testifying for the prosecution,” DPD Hilo said. The majority of the time, said DPD Hilo, Kramer-Sarrett testifies the accused’s blood alcohol level was over the legal limit at the time of the offense.

DPD Hilo further argued the driver of the Amazon vehicle had a “motive to fabricate…he didn’t want to lose his job.”

Hilo also took issue with this witness’s nonpresence during the trial, claiming this could indicate that he wanted to avoid making perjurious statements in his testimony. The Amazon driver’s 911 call revealed the Amazon driver had called his boss before calling the police.

“(The prosecution) did not bring the witness because his 911 call was self-authenticating,”  said Deputy District Attorney Elin Carlson in response to why the prosecution didn’t call a certain witness to the stand.

DDA Carlson said in her rebuttal the investigating officer didn’t need to canvass the area for other witnesses because there was “no need for other witnesses…LAPD doesn’t have that kind of time.”

DDA Carlson argued the defense’s claims were made in an effort to “blame everybody under the sun. This is about holding (the accused) accountable for a misdemeanor DUI,” said DDA Carlson.

The jury is now in deliberation.

About The Author

I'm a recent California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo grad. I majored in English and received a minor in Studio Art. In the fall, I plans to go back to school for a master's degree in English Literature. Currently, I am a transcript editor for CalMatters, and I hope to enter the field of technical writing someday. In my freetime, I love to draw, go on roadtrips, and camp

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