Woman who got a DUI escaping from her boyfriend in Pismo Beach may face a new trial

A woman who was given a DUI in Pismo Beach for driving 30 feet to escape a man she said was an abusive boyfriend may have to face a new trial after her first one ended with a hung jury.

Palmdale resident Anne Marie Nunez, 55, was charged with a misdemeanor DUI on Sept. 17, 2021 — around three months after the incident. Her case went to trial in February but ended in a mistrial in March after jurors could not agree whether she was at fault for moving her car to a different spot in the parking lot while visibly intoxicated.

When a case ends with a hung jury, the district attorney has the choice to retry the case or leave it be. In this case, the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office decided to retry the case.

It’s expected to go to trial again this month.

In the meantime, Nunez’s lawyer, Trace Milan, has filed a motion to dismiss the charges, arguing his client moved her car out of necessity.

“Officers left the intoxicated woman to fend for herself in the back of her boyfriend’s van in circumstances not unlike the Gabby Petito murder,” he wrote in the motion.

Petito, who was traveling with her boyfriend in Utah, went missing in the summer of 2022 shortly after police officers responded to the couple fighting but ultimately left the two together. Her remains were found a month later.

Milan added that the prosecution does not have new evidence, so it’s likely the case will have the same outcome.

The district attorney said dismissing the charges is not in the interest of justice, adding that there is no minimum distance a vehicle must be driven before driving drunk becomes a crime.

Woman told officers boyfriend strangled her

On June 7, 2021, at around 11 p.m., officers responded to a call of a couple fighting in the Denny’s parking lot in Pismo Beach. They were there with two vehicles parked next to each other, the man’s van and the woman’s car.

When police arrived on scene, body camera footage obtained by The Tribune shows, Michael Deryden told Officer Kyle Laughlin, “We just had a little argument.”

Deryden went to the other officer to give him his driver’s license, and Nunez can be seen lying in the backseat of the van, apparently intoxicated.

“Is everything OK, ma’am?” the officer asked her.

“I don’t want him to hear,” Nunez responded.

Laughlin reassured Nunez her boyfriend couldn’t hear her, then asked if Deryden hit her.

“Yes,” Nunez responded, adding, “It’s my fault.”

A screenshot from body camera footage of Pismo Beach officers talking with Anne Nunez, who they charged with a DUI after she said she tried to escape her abuser on June 7, 2021.
A screenshot from body camera footage of Pismo Beach officers talking with Anne Nunez, who they charged with a DUI after she said she tried to escape her abuser on June 7, 2021.

Deryden then came over, and Laughlin told Nunez he’d come back to her.

Deryden told Laughlin the two were arguing “just about life in general” and said the disagreement never became physical. He also told the officer he took Nunez’s keys so she couldn’t drive in her intoxicated state.

Laughlin then told Deryden he was going to talk to Nunez to make sure their stories matched.

Nunez, slurring her words, told the officer she wanted to visit her sister and “I want to be safe.” When the officer asked Nunez why she felt unsafe, she told him she wanted to go home.

Laughlin noted that he knew Nunez had a restraining order against her boyfriend that only allowed peaceful contact.

“Where did he hit you, dear?” Laughlin asked.

“It doesn’t matter,” Nunez responded.

“I can see your shirt is torn,” Laughlin said. “Your chest is kind of red.”

Nunez told the officer her red chest was from a sunburn.

“He tried to strangle me,” she told the officer, adding that Deryden used a towel.

Laughlin told the other officer at the scene that Nunez reported she had been hit and strangled, and her clothes were torn.

“But now she doesn’t want to talk about it,” he told the other officer.

Nunez then interrupted the officers and told them her boyfriend was a “good guy” and that he’d “been really good” to her. She also responded “no,” when asked again if she was strangled.

The officers ultimately agreed to leave Nunez with her boyfriend in the van so the two could sleep off their alcohol. They told them they could not drive until they sobered up.

Around 25 minutes later, however, Laughlin said he observed Nunez get into her car and move it 30 feet within the Denny’s parking lot.

According to body camera footage, Laughlin then approached Nunez and told her she was too intoxicated to drive.

“I wanted to move away from him,” Nunez told the officer.

Laughlin asked why Nunez didn’t get a room in the hotel, and she told him she didn’t have money.

“(Deryden) said he would buy you one,” Laughlin told Nunez.

Laughlin reiterated the Nunez was too drunk to be driving, and Nunez responded that she just wanted to move her car to a safe location.

The officer insisted the only reason Nunez didn’t drive on the road was because she saw him, but Nunez told him she just wanted to move her car, lock it and go to asleep.

Nunez did admit to driving the vehicle and said she drank 12 beers that day during her arrest, the footage showed.

New trial for DUI is harassment, defense lawyer says

The trial ended in with eight jurors believing Nunez was guilty and four believing she was innocent. They deadlocked after two days of deliberations, court documents show.

According to the motion to dismiss filed on Nunez’s behalf, Laughlin did not advise Nunez of her right to refuse the preliminary alcohol screening test, and her evidentiary breath test was taken off-camera. A different officer testified that they administered the test, court documents say, but the breath test form says Laughlin administered it.

He also could not have seen Nunez get in her car and drive it from the vantage point he testified he was at, the motion said.

According to evidence shown at trial, court documents say, Nunez had been abused by Deryden “for years,” including beatings that required hospitalization.

“As officers had responded in person and offered the defendant no protection,” the motion said. “There was no reason for her to believe that law enforcement was the solution.”

Milan, Nunez’s lawyer, argued that she moved her car out of necessity to protect herself from further harm. She wanted to put a locked door between her and her abuser, he said, and hoped that moving the car 30 feet would cause Deryden to assume she had left and avoid another confrontation.

Milan argues a retrial would amount to harassment.

Nunez has already faced trial once, and she has already had to travel and take work off for the first trial.

Dismissing charges would hinder justice, DA says

According to the district attorney’s response to the motion, Laughlin was initially responding to a report of “play fighting.”

The response says Nunez provided contradictory statements about whether there was a physical altercation, and though the officer noted Nunez’s shirt was torn, evidence shown at trial showed it was intact, the response said.

Both Deryden and Nunez were red from being in the sun earlier that day, the response said, and both were advised to not drive their vehicles as they were highly intoxicated.

About 25 minutes later, the response said, Laughlin saw Nunez driving in her car and then drove into the Denny’s parking lot. That’s when Nunez parked, admitted to driving the vehicle and said she had drunken 12 beers that day, the response said.

On a preliminary blood alcohol test, Nunez blew a .18%, the response said. Her blood alcohol content was .21% and .20% during the evidentiary test, the response said.

The district attorney’s response argues a dismissal would not be in the interest of justice. Nunez was highly intoxicated at the time, the response said, and “there is no minimum distance a vehicle must be driven before driving under the influence becomes a crime.”

The response also argues the jury was split in the prosecution’s favor, and that it was “entirely possible” for a new jury to reach a unanimous verdict during a second trial.

The motion to dismiss will be heard on June 12. If it’s denied, the case will go to trial again on June 20.