WOODLAND — Seniors at Pioneer High School got a real-life look at the consequences of driving under the influence Friday when Yolo Superior Court Judge Dave Rosenberg brought his entire department to the school’s theater for a misdemeanor DUI trial that ended with the defendant being led away in handcuffs.
Jasbir Singh Brar, a former Pioneer student, was found guilty of driving under the influence after an hourlong trial in front of the entire senior class, who sat spellbound throughout the proceedings.
Brar’s attorney, Richard Lansburgh, said his client agreed to the very public trial “because he went to this school and he didn’t want any of these kids to do what he did.”
What Brar did, according to testimony, was to drink four or five beers and smoke some marijuana before getting behind the wheel of his car. He was pulled over in the early hours of Sept 22, 2012, in Woodland and subsequently failed a series of field sobriety tests.
Although his blood-alcohol level was below the legal limit, blood tests also revealed the presence of marijuana in his system, Woodland Police Detective Ted Ruiz testified.
On the witness stand set up on the stage, Brar, 24, said he did not believe at the time of his arrest that he was impaired, but after watching video of his field sobriety tests recorded by Ruiz’s dashboard camera, he changed his mind.
The video, which students saw on Friday, showed Brar struggling to walk in a straight line, touch his nose and stand on one foot, at one point nearly toppling over.
“I wouldn’t do it again,” Brar said. “It’s not smart, not worth it and I could have killed someone.”
Rosenberg found Brar guilty after the short trial and sentenced him to four years summary probation, $3,179 in fines, an 18-month DUI education course and 10 days in county jail.
Brar was then led way in handcuffs.
After a brief question-and-answer session with the students, Ruiz offered some parting advice to the seniors on what was the eve of their senior prom.
“I’ve been to a bunch of bad crashes,” he told them. “Don’t take that chance. You know what you’re doing and you know what’s going to happen.”
This was the first time a DUI trial has taken place in a Yolo County school, but Chief Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Raven hopes it’s not the last.
“I’m hoping more high school principals will come forward and say, ‘We want you to do this for us,’ ” Raven said.
And even though his client was found guilty, Lansburgh agreed with the trial’s value.
“It’s a great idea,” he said. “I can’t think of anything more beneficial.
“My client did not have a good time up there, but he thought it was an important thing to do, and I did, too. The District Attorney’s Office should be lauded for this.”
Ruiz, meanwhile, believes watching the trial will have a lasting effect on the students.
“You can’t have a more impactful experience than to see someone actually sentenced,” Ruiz said. “And hearing the defendant actually say, ‘I thought I was OK, but I wasn’t’ … is very impactful.”
The trial was part of ongoing anti-DUI efforts in the schools made possible by a grant the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office received from the California Office of Traffic Safety.
A program at Davis High School earlier this year provided teachers and staff with training on identifying the signs and symptoms of drug and alcohol use.
Deputy District Attorney Matt De Moura, who prosecuted Brar on Friday and also participated in the Davis High program, was recently honored by the Greater Sacramento Regional Mothers Against Drunk Driving chapter for his work fighting DUIs.
— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy