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United States of America v. Maria Ortega-Sanchez

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA SAN JOSE DIVISION


May 7, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PLAINTIFF,
v.
MARIA ORTEGA-SANCHEZ, DEFENDANT.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Paul S. Grewal United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER ON MOTIONS IN LIMINE (Re: Docket Nos. 29, 40, 41)

Before the court are the parties' in limine motions. Plaintiff United States of America ("the 17 18 government") and Defendant Maria Ortega-Sanchez ("Ortega-Sanchez") each bring two motions in limine. On May 7, 2013, the parties appeared for a hearing. Having reviewed the papers and 20 considered the arguments of counsel, 21

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Ortega-Sanchez's first motion in limine is GRANTED.

Ortega-Sanchez requests that evidence of her prior conviction for driving under the 23 influence be admitted solely for purposes of proving Count Two (driving a motor vehicle when 24 license suspended or revoked for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs).*fn1 Evidence of 25 26 27 Ortega-Sanchez's prior conviction is necessary to prove elements of Count Two,*fn2 but as Ortega-1 2 Sanchez rightly observes, such evidence would be highly prejudicial character evidence if used to infer that because she drove under the influence previously, she did it again on this occasion.*fn3 An 4 appropriate instruction will be given. 5

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Ortega-Sanchez's second motion in limine is GRANTED- IN-PART. 7

Ortega-Sanchez challenges the admission of the government's exhibits 3-9, including the FHL PD dispatch details, photographs of the defendant on October 16, 2011, the defendant's DMV 9 10 printout, and minutes of superior court cases for driving under the influence, driving while licenses suspended/revoked, and driving while license suspended/revoked due to DUI. The question is 12 whether the probative value is substantially outweighed by unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, 13 or waste of time.*fn4 Although the government is entitled to present a full narrative, the probative 14 value of a piece of evidence must be considered in conjunction with available alternatives -- if a 15 substantially similar alternative exists, with a lower danger of unfair prejudice, "sound judicial 16 discretion would discount the value of the item."*fn5 Ortega-Sanchez has offered to stipulate that she 17 18 was previously convicted of driving under the influence and that she knew that her driving 19 privilege had been suspended and revoked.*fn6 On condition that such a stipulation is entered, the 20 court agrees -- and the government does not dispute -- the prior court proceedings, the DMV 1 2 printout, and the booking photos will be unnecessary and indeed unduly prejudicial. However, Ortega-Sanchez has not shown why Exhibit 3, the FHL PD dispatch, should also be excluded. 4

Although she argues the evidence is cumulative, it is relevant to the night of the incident and if it is 5 not otherwise objectionable, it holds value in preserving the integrity of the government's 6 narrative.*fn7 7

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the government's first motion in limine is GRANTED-IN- PART. 9 10

The government seeks to exclude evidence of prior disciplinary proceedings against Officer Raymond J. Polanco ("Polanco"), but does not refer to any specific disciplinary proceeding that might be offered. Ortega-Sanchez suggests in her response that the government is seeking to 13 exclude complaints that Polanco illegally processed two prior DUI cases. As noted above, 14 evidence presented solely for the purpose of establishing a person's character or character trait is 15 not admissible to prove that the person acted in line with that character or trait on a particular 16 occasion.*fn8 However, a witness' credibility may be attacked by questioning the witness as to 17 18 specific instances of the witness' conduct, so long as they are probative of the witness' truthfulness 19 or untruthfulness.*fn9 It is unclear from the record before the court whether these "complaints" bear 20 on the officer's honesty or dishonesty, so Ortega-Sanchez will have an opportunity outside of the 21 jury's presence to question Polanco about the incident. If it becomes clear the letter has no value 22 except to show Polanco was "sloppy and careless" or "incompetent" and likely misprocessed the 23 24 DUIs, the evidence is not admissible.*fn10 On the other hand, if Polanco lied or engaged in 1 2 dishonesty, the evidence may be admissible. Like any other witness, by testifying Polanco necessarily puts his credibility at issue, so he may be questioned as to prior acts of dishonesty. 4

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the government's second motion in limine is GRANTED- IN-PART. 6

The government asserts that Ortega-Sanchez has not complied with Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 16 and 26.2. Rule 16(b) provides that if the defendant requests the government provide 8 disclosures under Rule 16(a), "the defendant must permit the government, upon request, to inspect 9 10 and to copy" any documents that are (1) within defendant's possession, custody, or control, and (2) the defendant intends to use the document within her case-in-chief at trial. The government asserts that although they have provided disclosure pursuant to Rule 16(a), as of May 3, 2013, the 13 defendant has not provided the government with reciprocal discovery.*fn11 If not properly disclosed 14 before trial, any evidence that should have been provided under Rule 16 will be excluded. 15

Under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 26.2, "[a]fter a witness other than the defendant 16 has testified on direct examination, the court, on motion of a party who did not call the witness, 17 18 must order an attorney for the government or the defendant and the defendant's attorney to 19 produce, for the examination and use of the moving party, any statement of the witness that is in 20 their possession and that relates to the subject matter of the witness's testimony." The government 21 is correct that Ortega-Sanchez must provide any prior statements of the witnesses she calls, 22 although nothing in Rule 26.2 requires her to do so now. Nevertheless, consistent with the custom 23 24 25 of this district, Ortega-Sanchez represents that she has tendered any statement of her anticipated 1 2 witnesses, and on that basis the court finds further relief is unwarranted.

IT IS SO ORDERED.


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