A sheriff's sergeant and November hopeful for the District 1 supervisor's seat is scheduled to face a jury trial stemming from his drunken driving arrest last year.
Sgt. James Pacheco of the Merced County Sheriff's Department has maintained his innocence throughout the legal process. He will face a Dec. 4 trial.
Pacheco could face more obstacles than originally expected during his two-day trial, after a ruling by Judge Ronald Hansen to throw out evidence in the case was reversed by an appellate court.
Pacheco's defense had claimed his Fourth Amendment rights to reasonable search and seizure may have been violated when he was asked to step outside his house during the investigation.
The state attorney general's office, which is prosecuting the case, challenged that ruling on the grounds that there was reasonable suspicion Pacheco was under the influence of alcohol at the time.
To support that argument, the attorney general's office cited pieces of evidence found at the scene, such as empty beer cans in the vehicle he was reportedly driving and a possible collision with his Sheriff's Department patrol car, which was parked in front of his Le Grand house.
The evidence the defense was attempting to suppress includes questioning by arresting officers from the California Highway Patrol and field sobriety tests from the April 2011 episode. Several breathalyzer tests recorded Pacheco's blood alcohol content at 0.13, according to court documents.
Controversy arising from the issue has been used as political fuel as Pacheco vies for a spot on the Merced County Board of Supervisors and was the subject of a set of fliers mailed by his main opponent, incumbent Supervisor John Pedrozo.
Pacheco said the DUI allegation wasn't a distraction for him as he campaigned before the June 5 primary election, and he doesn't expect it to distract him as he campaigns for the Nov. 6 general election, adding that he's "running on the issues."
Pacheco said he's not sure why the court chose Dec. 4, but said he's fine with that decision. He also said that he's OK with the court's choice to allow the evidence that was originally ordered to be suppressed.
"I'm looking forward to my day in court," Pacheco said.
Kirk McAllister, Pacheco's Modesto-based attorney, said he still expects Pacheco to be exonerated -- even with the inclusion of the evidence that had been suppressed.
McAllister didn't say whether he was disappointed with the appellate court's decision to reverse the motion to suppress, but did hint that he accepts the decision. "I never try to kick dirt on the umpire's shoes," he said.
Pedrozo declined to comment on the issue.
Both he and Pacheco will face off again in November since nobody in June's four-way race for the District 1 seat garnered more than 50 percent of the vote.
With 48.3 percent of the vote, Pedrozo led the race, followed by Pacheco at 32.4 percent.
Court documents show Pacheco's next court date is at 1:30 p.m. Dec. 4 in Courtroom 4.
Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.