COURT WATCH: DUI Trial Leads to Defense Questioning Prosecution’s Expert Witness

By Kayla Garcia-Pebdani

WOODLAND, CA – Yolo County Superior Court Judge Tom M. Dyer overruled Deputy Public Defender Courtney Leavitt’s objection here at trial Wednesday that later led to questioning an expert witness’s validity in properly assessing blood alcohol levels of the accused.

The accused is facing three misdemeanors and one infraction: Driving under the influence, drunk driving, resisting/obstructing a public officer and an infraction for exceeding the 65 mph speed limit.

In October 2023, the defense filed a motion to dismiss for lack of speedy trial under the 6th and 14th Amendments. However, the case continued to a trial setting conference.

The following month, the defense counsel filed a Serna Motion (to dismiss for lack of speedy prosecution, PC § 1382) which was later submitted and denied. Additionally, the defense submitted a Pitchess Motion (to access an officer’s personnel records) questioning the officers involved in December 2023 and was denied in March of 2024.

Wednesday morning, Senior Criminalist Jyoti Malik was called as an expert witness to provide information regarding the sobriety exams conducted at the time of the accused’s arrest.

During cross-examination, DPD Leavitt noted the calculated number of alcoholic beverages consumed by the time the accused was stopped lacked necessary information to determine the results accurately.

Malik explained the variables necessary to calculate alcohol absorption, but because it was unknown when the alleged stopped drinking, the time of absorption was assumed to be at the time the accused was stopped by California Highway Patrol.

The initial 7 ½ alcoholic beverages, specifically 12 oz of 4 percent beer, allegedly consumed, as the defense noted, becomes more difficult to calculate with certainty without including the individual’s age, consumption of food, gender, height, weight, and sleep, said the defense, noting a study by Dr. Kurt Dubowski which cited, “Absorption, distribution and elimination of alcohol: highway safety aspects.”

DPD Leavitt argued Dr. Dubowski found all factors are needed to find the alleged absorption of alcohol for an individual. Without said information, it becomes increasingly difficult to say with certainty how much alcohol the accused consumed, the public defender contended.

About The Author

Kayla Garcia-Pebdani is a fourth-year student at UC Davis, studying Political Science–Public Service with double minors in Human Rights and Professional Writing. She actively engages in social justice issues and advocacy through her roles as an intern for Article 26 Backpack, the Co-Lead for Students Demand Action at UC Davis, and her previous involvement with Catalyst California as a Government Relations Intern. Kayla hopes to further expand her knowledge and skills during her time with the Vanguard. Through her experiences, she aims to highlight injustices in everyday life and provide means for the public to stay aware and hopefully become inclined to get involved.

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