A preliminary hearing, sometimes referred to as a probable cause hearing, is a hearing in which a judge determines whether probable cause exists for the crime or crimes that a defendant has been charged with. This only occurs in felony cases after the defendant pleads not guilty at their arraignment hearing.
Preliminary hearings are like mini trials. At the hearing, the court examines the prosecution’s evidence to determine whether it is substantial enough to convince a jury that the defendant committed the crime or crimes which they are being charged with.
In DUI cases, the court will review whether or not the law enforcement officer had probable cause to make the stop (except if the defendant was arrested at a DUI checkpoint). Next, the court will examine whether there was sufficient evidence to believe the defendant was driving under the influence. This evidence may include:
- the smell of alcohol
- bloodshot eyes
- slurred speech
- performance on field sobriety tests
- results from an alcohol breath or blood test
If the judge finds that probable cause in fact exists, the defendant will be held to answer for the charges and the case will proceed to trial, unless a deal is worked out between the prosecution and the defense before the trial date.
The defendant must attend a preliminary hearing. It is possible to waive this hearing and proceed straight to trial, but that is not advisable. The defendant can benefit from a preliminary hearing because it provides the defense a preview of the prosecution’s case and gives the defense an opportunity to see how strong the case is against them.
On Monday, Jul 5, 2021, authorities detained 22-year-old Los Angeles resident Adrian Castroramos following a fatal DUI crash that occurred on the 101 Freeway in the Cahuenga Pass. A 45-year-old woman, whose identity remains undisclosed, was struck and killed by Castroramos after she exited her vehicle following a separate crash on the 101.
According to the California Highway Patrol, the initial collision occurred before dawn at approximately 4:40 a.m.. Three cars traveling southbound collided north of Pilgrimage Bridge. After the crash, the woman exited her vehicle to check for damage which remained in the third lane. Unfortunately, minutes later, Castroramos approached the area driving a 2003 Chevrolet Tahoe and struck her.
Emergency personnel responded and upon arrival found the woman suffering with major injuries in the roadway north of the bridge. Sadly, her sustained injuries were extremely severe and she was pronounced dead at the scene. Authorities then arrested Adrian Castroramos on suspicion of DUI.
Officers shut down a part of the southbound 101 freeway through the Cahuenga Pass for more than two hours following the crash. There are no further details regarding the fatal DUI incident, the investigation is ongoing.
Driving while drunk is a criminal offense in every state. Although each state differs slightly when defining what drunk driving and its consequences are, there are many overlapping qualities. This is especially true when it comes to the kind of evidence police can gather and what of that evidence can be used by a prosecutor during trial. The prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were either over the legal limit of intoxication, were impaired by those intoxications, or both based on the evidence presented at trial.
Types of Evidence Considered in DUI Cases
People charged with a DUI are entitled to a trial by a judge or jury. Evidence that may used at trial may include physical evidence such as an open or empty container of alcohol found in defendant’s vehicle, the arresting officer’s observations regarding the defendant’s objective symptoms of intoxication (slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, etc.), and/or the defendant’s performance on the field sobriety tests as well as chemical tests– whether breath, urine, or blood tests.
When it comes to the legal level of intoxication, most people think of the general .08 blood alcohol content (BAC) percentage in California. However, those under 21 or someone on probation for a DUI cannot drive with even .01 blood alcohol content. There is also the enhanced penalties if your BAC level is .15 or greater.
Possible Evidentiary Issues that Can Surface During a DUI Trial
There must be reasonable suspicion for why the officer pulls you over, which they will then document in a police report. When administering field sobriety tests or chemical tests, the officer must adhere to certain procedures. If there is no reasonable suspicion for the vehicle stop, probable cause for the arrest, and/or the officer did not follow proper procedures when gathering evidence, your attorney can make a motion to exclude illegally obtained evidence at trial.
Last week, an 11-year old girl and her 8-year-old little sister were struck and killed in Porterville California. According to investigative results, the alleged drunk driver also critically injured two other children during the event of the crime. This tragedy happened Saturday, June 19, 2021, at approximately 3:18 p.m.
Authorities stated that the suspect, 43-year-old Elizabeth Nugaray, was traveling southbound on Main Street when she failed to stop at a traffic light at Orange Avenue. Consequently, Nugaray first broadsided a Dodge Journey that had the right of way and collided with an SUV as well as a traffic control light pole. The SUV had five occupants, four of whom were minors.
The damages to the SUV were so severe that several victims had to be extracted from the vehicle by emergency personnel. Sadly, the 11-year-old girl succumbed to her injuries at the scene of the crime and her younger 8-year-old sister passed away from her injuries at a nearby hospital. A 4-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl also suffered major injuries and were transported via helicopter to a local hospital for treatment. They were listed in critical condition.
Nugaray was arrested and is currently booked in the Tulare County Jail on charges of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and causing an injury traffic collision while impaired. Her bail is set at $100,000.
On May 20th at approximately 10:09 p.m. in Orange, California, a 19-year-old pedestrian was struck and killed by Sitani Pinomi. The victim, Aden Uriostegui, was walking home from work when a 2002 Ford F-250 pickup truck traveling southbound ran through a red traffic light and fatally struck him. The crash occurred at the intersection of Tustin Street and Heim Avenue.
According to investigative reports, Pinomi pulled over following the collision to try and wake up the teen who at the time was unresponsive. By the time emergency personnel arrived, Uriostegui sadly succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene. Consequently, Orange police officers conducted a field sobriety test on the driver and shortly thereafter arrested him for a DUI and driving on a suspended license.
Sadly, this was not Pinomi’s first DUI offense. He was previously arrested on January 24th, 2020 in Salt Lake City and was cited for using or having drug paraphernalia, interfering with an arresting officer, and failing to comply with police commands.
Due to his criminal history, Orange Police booked him at the Orange County Jail for muder and remained in custody until his court date, June 9th, 2021.
A GoFund Me Page has since been set up to help the victim’s family with funeral expenses.