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About this blog: In January 2002 I started writing my own online "newspaper" titled "The San Ramon Observer." I reported on City Council meetings and other happenings in San Ramon. I tried to be objective in my coverage of meetings and events, and...  (More)

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Not so speedy trial

Uploaded: Nov 18, 2014

I was injured in an automobile accident on January 24, 2013. I was driving through the intersection of Alcosta Blvd and Bollinger Canyon Road with the green light, when a vehicle running the red light on Bollinger T-Boned my car resulting in 4 broken ribs and a three day stay at San Ramon Valley Medical Center.

In October, 2014 I received Subpoena as a witness in the trial of the person who hit my car a-year-and-a-half ago. The first Subpoena was for October 8, 2014 at 8 am in Martinez. That trial was postponed to November 5th, also 8 am.

I'm not a morning person, and it is hard enough for me to wake up at 8 am much less drive to Martinez in morning traffic. Even though I was not seriously injured in the accident, I am more skittish about driving now, especially on the Freeway.

I did not want to drive early in the morning on the day after Election Day. I called DA's office to see if the trial could be postponed. The accused was also requesting a delay, and the November 5th date was rescheduled. I have not received a Subpoena with the new date yet.

I asked the DA if they couldn't just give the young man who hit my car community service as an alternative to a trial. She said driving under the influence, in this case marijuana, is a serious offense. I asked my attorney if I could write a deposition about what happened instead of having to be there. He said I have to be there to be cross-examined by the accused's attorney.

The right to a speedy trial and interrogation of witnesses is in the 6th Amendment of the Constitution:

"In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense."

The Subpoena states in all caps and bold: "DISOBEDIENCE OF THIS SUBPOENA MAY BE PUNISHABLE BY A FINE, IMPRISONMENT, OR BOTH. A WARRANT MAY BE ISSUED FOR YOUR ARREST IF YOU FAIL TO APPEAR."

But I'm the victim in this accident. Yet if I don't drive myself 23 miles to Martinez by 8 am, I'm subject to arrest. That doesn't seem like a fair system.

I need a way to get to Martinez when the trial is rescheduled, because I really don't want to drive myself. In fact I don't want to drive anywhere lately. I drove to the Nob Hill Market last week at 4:30 pm. I left about 5:30 and it was already dark out. It was hard for me to drive home, which is only a little over one mile.

I don't know when the trial will be rescheduled, but my lawyer said witnesses are required on the second day of the trial. Often the trial is settled on the first day and there is no need for a second day. Still I wouldn't know that until the day before I'm supposed to be there. This is not a good system for a witness or a victim.

So far this trial isn't very speedy either. The accident happened almost two years ago. Some of the delays were requested by the Defendant. The victim is not included in the speed of the trial. Maybe we need another amendment for victim's rights.
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Comments

 +   3 people like this
Posted by Damon, a resident of Foothill Knolls,
on Nov 19, 2014 at 12:37 pm

Sorry to hear about the crash and injuries. As for the court system, yes, the wheels of justice do move very, very slowly. Lawyers asking for delays are partly responsible, but I suspect that it's also due to the overloaded court system making it difficult to schedule trials in a timely manner.

As for the decision to prosecute, of course the decision can't be just left to the victim if the case is a serious one. This other driver is a threat not just to you, but to everyone else on the road if he is let go with no punishment or with just a minimal punishment such as community service. So it's no longer just you against this other driver. It's now the State (acting on behalf of all of us) against this other driver. Unfortunately, you got caught in the middle of this.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Pro-Law, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Nov 21, 2014 at 12:35 pm

Easiest way to "get out of a subpoena" is to not respond to it if it was mailed to you. Subpoena by mail for personal appearance is not proper service as technically is must be personally served. Must people don't know this and just make contact with the DA since it does come off as a rather threatening document. Once you make contact with the DA though it is probably too late as you promised to appear.

With that said, DUI traffic collision with injuries is a serious offense and you would be doing all of us a real disservice if you didn't attend the trial. Traffic collisions in general are one of the leading causes of death and injuries (not including 'natural' things like heart disease, cancer, etc).

I agree through that the court system is a mess for the victim. The accused having certain protections, though, is what separates our system from those in other parts of the world (presumed innocent, speedy trial, right to confront witnesses, etc). On a side note, in the vast majority of cases the defendant waives their right to a speedy trial.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Catherine, a resident of Danville,
on Nov 21, 2014 at 2:59 pm

Sorry to hear about your injuries, and hope you are doing much better.

That aside, I understand your frustration and concerns, but you even quoted in the 6th Amendment the defendant has the right, "to be confronted with the witnesses against him." Yes, our justice system moves slowly and if you look at the statics, you can thank the huge population of illegal immigrants and their crimes for slowing the process down at least in our state along with many defendants waiving the speedy trial. Also, if you really understand the criminal justice system, the DA represents "The People of the State of California" and is looking out for ALL of our interests with regard to a criminal.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by San Ramon Observer, a resident of San Ramon,
on Nov 21, 2014 at 6:38 pm

San Ramon Observer is a registered user.

Damon, Pro Law, and Catherine,

You are all correct that driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a serious offense. I actually did witness an accident when I lived in Culver City. I think it was on Venice Blvd. near National, where a woman in a crosswalk was hit by a woman driving through the crosswalk against the light.

The woman in the crosswalk was seriously injured and taken away in an ambulance. The driver of the vehicle appeared to be drunk or on something and she was taken away by police. There was a group of people waiting to cross the street, so any one of us could have been hit. I don't know what happened to the victim in that accident, but of course its much worse when a pedestrian is hit than someone in a car.

My concern isn't with testifying but with getting to the court. A friend emailed me about "hardship transportation" to the court, where drivers or volunteers are provided to drive witnesses who do not have any other way to get there. I shall look into that when the trial is rescheduled.

Roz


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Jtjh, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School,
on Nov 24, 2014 at 1:58 pm

Jtjh is a registered user.

Damon wrote, very logically:

>> This other driver is a threat not just to you, but to everyone else on the road if he is let go with no punishment or with just a minimal punishment such as community service. <<

Will the young man he have been allowed to drive - and thus, presumably a threat to everyone else - while waiting for his court appearance? I was just wondering whether the attorney Spencer Freeman Smith, who has been charged with killing a cyclist and was released on bail, will have been permitted to drive - and thus potentially a threat to the safety of other citizens - during the two and a half years since the hit-and-run incident.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by San Ramon Observer, a resident of San Ramon,
on Nov 24, 2014 at 11:04 pm

San Ramon Observer is a registered user.

Jtjh,

I don't know if the driver had his license suspended for any length of time, but he would be foolish to drive under the influence of anything again and risk losing his license.

I have not heard anything about Spencer Freeman Smith for over a year. That accident happened in Dublin. The Alameda County Courts must be even more backlogged than Contra Costa County.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Parker, a resident of Montair Elementary School,
on Nov 25, 2014 at 11:49 am

Danville Police Bully people they dont like. To tell your story of bullying by the Danville police, enter your story at dirtydanvillepd@gmail.com This will be published, so if you wish to stay anomymous use a different name. Thank You


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