Senior Criminalist Angela Stroman gave testimony about blood alcohol levels in a DUI trial against Michael Matthew Montoya in Yolo County, California.
Michael Matthew Montoya was celebrating Davis’ Picnic Day 2015. He consumed 6 beers at the event and drove away in a black Honda that he later crashed. Montoya told Yolo County Sheriff’s Deputy Robert Harbaugh that his girlfriend had been driving, but she left the scene to get her father. Witnesses, however, said that she was not driving.
Deputy Harbaugh described Montoya as “unsteady, had bloodshot eyes and smelled of alcohol.” According to Deputy Harbaugh, when Montoya’s girlfriend arrived back at the scene, Montoya asked repeatedly to leave and made an attempt to walk over to her, pushing aside another officer who had arrived. After Montoya attempted to walk over to his girlfriend, he was handcuffed and placed in the deputy’s car.
Montoya claimed to have only consumed six beers at the event. By 3:53pm, Montoya’s blood alcohol level was 0.178 (reported in the linked press account as 1.78, a blood alcohol content that no living person could attain). Montoya was charged with a misdemeanor DUI along with enhancements for excessive blood alcohol levels.
DUI Law in California
In California, if there is no bodily injury or death caused by the DUI, the minimum sentence for a misdemeanor first conviction are fines and penalties of approximately $1,800, 48-hour jail sentence or 90-day license restriction, attendance and completion of a $500, three-month alcohol-treatment program, and loss of driving privileges for at least 30 days.
The maximum penalty for a first DUI conviction in California is a fine of $1,000, over $2,600 in penalties, six months in jail, a six-month license suspension (10 months if your blood alcohol level was 0.15% or more), having your vehicle impounded for 30 days, and being required to attach an “interlock” breath device to your vehicle that will not allow it to start if there is alcohol on your breath.
Montoya’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Aram Davtyan, asked the jury to give Montoya the “presumption of innocence” and argued that his client had not been driving the car.
Montoya’s blood alcohol level was an issue at trial. In many DUI trials, attorneys question the accuracy of in-field testing processes. Angela Stroman was called as an expert witness on blood alcohol levels. Stroman is a Senior Criminalist with the United States Department of Justice.
Stroman explained how every individual is different and that many factors are taken into account when determining the stages of intoxication, “A lot depends on how much alcohol is in one drink, ounces and a person’s body weight, contents of the stomach and body chemistry…there are several factors we look at.”
Stroman explained that a blood alcohol of .04 is the first stage of intoxication and at this level, a person could drive home safely. Stroman testified that when a person’s blood alcohol level reaches .08, the majority of people will experience an impairment of vision, reflexes, judgment, and clarity. Stroman explained that sometimes a person’s blood alcohol level can rise over time because of the way that the alcohol is absorbed in the body.