By AMANDA KIMBLE
STEPHENVILLE (September 20, 2016) –It took an Erath County jury about 20 minutes to find Everardo Morantesruiz guilty of felony driving while intoxicated Tuesday.
But, determining a suitable punishment for his third conviction for driving while intoxicated took longer. After about an hour-and-a-half, the jury delivered a sentencing recommendation of 10 years of confinement, probated for 10 years and a fine of $8,000. It is lucky that the police caught him before he caused a serious accident due to his drunk driving. Drunk driving accidents happen regularly and they are 100% preventable. If you have been involved in an accident with a drunk driver you can contact a law firm like this St. Louis Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer to see if you can get legal help.
A third-degree felony carries a maximum of 10 years in prison. But, Morantesruiz, 30, was given a chance to avoid time in the penitentiary while serving an equally long probationary term. If you have found yourself in Morantesruiz’s shoes, you might be interested in someone like this philadelphia criminal lawyer to help you through your case.
In accepting the sentencing recommendation, District Judge Jason Cashon added a number of requirements, including a two-year driver’s license suspension; 400 hours of community service; 30 days in the Erath County Jail; a substance abuse assessment; and an GPS alcohol consumption monitor.
Cashon said a number of the requirements were above and beyond standard probationary requirements.
Morantesruiz was immediately remanded to the custody of the sheriff’s office to serve the month-long county sentence.
“After you’ve served the 30 days you will be released under the conditions of probation, reporting immediately to the probation office,” Cashon said.
During closing arguments, both the state and defense both called the case against Morantesruiz, 30, a simple one.
The trial got underway in the 266th Judicial District Court Monday, with the jury of four women and eight men being presented a case by Assistant District Attorney Jett Smith. The state’s case was built on eyewitness testimony and scientific evidence that showed Morantesruiz’s blood alcohol content (BAC) was four times greater than the legal limit.
The state also presented facts that showed drunk driving to be a pattern behavior for Morantesruiz, who was convicted of driving while intoxicated in Erath County in 2004 and Comanche County in 2005.
The latest charges were made the crime a third-degree because the conviction was his third.
Defense attorney Brady Pendleton based his arguments of innocence on reasonable doubt, saying a field sobriety test performed by a Dublin investigator was not completed by the book, rendering it inadmissible. Pendleton also said a video of the test presented to the jury showed Morantesruiz was clearly not as drunk as the state asserted. Pendleton stated blood evidence was not properly stored prior to being sent to a state forensics lab and there was a chance the machines that determined his client’s level of intoxication were not 100 percent accurate.
The case stemmed from Morantesruiz’s arrest for suspicion of drunk driving before 4 p.m. on September 29, 2014. The arrest was made after the defendant was found passed out behind the wheel of his pickup truck in the 100 block of east Blackjack Street in Dublin.
During opening remarks, Smith told the jury they would hear from witnesses who saw Morantesruiz asleep at the when at the intersection of U.S. Highway 377 and State Highway 6 prior to his arrest for drunk driving.
Under questioning by Smith, Dublin resident and motorist, Celinda Morrow, said she saw a black Ford pickup sitting at a green light, causing concern for the driver’s safety on September 29, 2014. As her vehicle approached the pickup truck, Morrow said she could see the driver’s eyes were closed.
Morrow testified she immediately pulled over, called police and approached the pickup truck. She said the vehicle was in drive with the engine running. She also said the driver had his foot on the break. Morrow opened the passenger-side door and put the gearshift in the parked position to avoid an ongoing risk to public safety.
Morrow testified Morantesruiz’s vehicle smelled like a brewery and beer cans littered the floorboard. She said once he was awake the defendant was very confused, acted like he was going drive away and eventually said he was not drunk, just tired.
During cross examination, Pendleton said the witness did not include information about the beer cans or open containers in her official statement.
Meanwhile, Brian Thomas, former investigator with Dublin Police Department, said his first concern was that Morantesruiz could be experiencing a medical issue. But, Thomas said he noticed a strong smell of alcohol, saw three “tallboy” beer cans in the suspect’s vehicle. The police officer asked the defendant if he had been drinking.
“He responded, ‘una cerveza,’ that he had one beer,” Thomas said.
Thomas also said multiple factors justified a field sobriety test. During the test, Thomas noted several issues with Morantesruiz’s performance, including balancing issues; failure to follow instructions; slurred speech; and incomplete thoughts. He also believed the defendant posed a safety risk to himself and others. Morantesruiz was arrested for suspicion of drunk driving.
The defendant was asked to voluntarily provide a blood sample, but Thomas said the Morantesruiz refused. The officer obtained a warrant for a blood sample.
During cross examination, Pendleton presented the correct procedure for completing a field sobriety test. Using a DVD recording of the test, the defense attorney showed how those steps were not followed and the required number of clues for arrest were not observed.
Thomas testified he did not recall ever reading the manual. He also testified the blood analysis kit used to collect a sample of Morantesruiz’s blood had been in his patrol car for several months and he could not verify if the kit had expired.
Later in the proceeding, the forensic scientist who analyzed the blood sample said the collection kit was not expired when testing was conducted.
The employee of the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Abilene lab also said complete analysis showed Morantesruiz had a blood alcohol content of 0.336 grams of alcohol per 100 ml of blood, four times the legal limit.
The sample was collected about two hours after the police investigation began.
The DPS scientist also explained the effects of alcohol on the body to the jury. He said alcohol is classified as a central nervous system depressant.
“At high concentration, from .18 to .30 you have disorientation, confusion, lack of motor control, and memory loss,” he said. “Higher concentrations, between .25 and .40, you can have impaired consciousness, increased motor control impairment and problems doing multiple tasks at one time. All the information you take in is impaired, not seeing things correctly or hearing correctly.”
Pendleton argued such extreme levels of alcohol concentration would have made it impossible for his client to complete tasks and follow commands. But, the expert said despite the high concentration, individuals who regularly consume large amounts of alcohol have a higher tolerance. He said those individuals “hold their liquor” better than occasional social drinkers. He also said in many cases, heavy drinkers do not appear as intoxicated as others who would rendered unconscious by such high levels of consumption.
While both the state and the defense implored the jury to use common sense in reaching a verdict, the jury was not swayed by a list of potentials presented by Pendleton, which also included assertions that ethanol gas-creating bacteria could have contaminated the sample.