COURT WATCH: Struggling Mother Faces Jail Time – Tells Judge She Did Not Understand Sentencing by Court

By Estrella Torres

VENTURA, CA – A mother facing child endangerment charges but with financial hardship, and losing her children to foster care, was sentenced to maximum jail time this past week in Ventura County Superior Court.

However, after the hearing. the accused claimed she misunderstood her rights when deciding between jail time and probation, and it took seven police officers trying to restrain her in the courtroom.

The child endangerment charges before the accused were previously brought, and a jury found her guilty of the crime. The trial revealed she had left a child in a vehicle unsupervised while she slept with the windows rolled down.

The jury trial further discussed how the accused was sleepy while driving, prompting her to pull the car over in the first place.

With this information, the Deputy District Attorney asked the court for the “maximum jail time and four years of probation,” arguing the crime took place back in 2022, and the accused had “a lot of time to take responsibility for her actions.”

“In addition… she was argumentative when testifying, she didn’t report to probation, she didn’t show up for the verdict, she was late this morning and she has other open misdemeanor cases … that she picked up while this case was pending,” added the DDA.

The DDA believed that the conduct of the crime was “extremely dangerous” to the child in the vehicle and concluded that “serious danger could have happened to that child if someone came up to that car while she was asleep.”

The Deputy Public Defender stated no “harm” or “distress” was caused to the child, as detailed by the jury evidence. In fact, the child was found “happy and healthy” during the incident.

In regards to the level of sophistication of the offense, the DPD argued the accused felt sleepy and pulled over, thereby engaging in an “active action to cause less injury” to the child “by pulling over and not driving while she felt unsafe.”

The accused’s state of “sleepiness” was also found to be trustworthy by the jury, explained the DPD. On these grounds, the DPD asserted there is “no source of any sophistication of neglect in this case.”

As for the accused’s criminal history, she has “drug and petty theft” misdemeanors, but “no history of child abuse,” said the DPD, adding the petty theft was related to her stealing a toy for her child.

Further, the DPD detailed the current hardships of the accused, including “finances, housing, and transportation.”

The accused has also lost her children to foster care, said the public defender, noting “her daughter was sexually assaulted in foster care.” adding the accused was reunited with her daughter for seven months until she “lost her housing, and her children had to be returned to foster care.”

To address such issues, the accused has been dealing with child protective services, taking counseling courses, taking drug abuse classes, and has been under drug supervision, the DPD said.

Judge Benjamin F. Coats made it clear that it is important to have some sort of “court supervision” of the accused, noting, “The option is really hers (accused), not mine,” describing how her two options are to “follow probation officer’s recommendation” or “serve the maximum jail sentence” proposed by the DDA. 

After a few minutes of deliberation between the DPD and the accused, the DPD concluded that the accused would “deny probation and serve the maximum jail sentence” of 115 days.

Once the hearing was adjourned and Judge Coats began to walk away the accused stated, “Oh no I thought it would be probation… No not jail, oh no not jail. I want probation … I thought she said 90 days probation … I’m sorry I misunderstood.”

The accused became more frustrated and agitated, then began to scream, saying, “Not jail…I won’t be able to see my kids…I did not understand my rights!”

As the accused was handcuffed, she began to scream and kick more, causing approximately seven officers to enter the courtroom to hold her down to the floor.

About The Author

Estrella Torres is a first-generation Latina student in her 3rd year at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is pursuing a major in Political Science and a minor in Public Affairs. Estrella has a strong passion and dedication to addressing social justice issues and political activism both in her high school and university. Her positionality as a student coming from a Mexican immigrant household has fueled her to pursue career goals involved with social justice and immigration law. She hopes to help undocumented immigrants as a lawyer and promote policies that would better their lives and provide them with fair and equal opportunities. Because of this, she is planning to go on the pre-law track and foster her skills of reading, writing, analyzing, and critical thinking. She hoped to gain more experience in journalism as regards law, local government, and public policy that would further prepare her for her goals.

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