Potential of having search warrant suppressed forced prosecution to drop many charges against Barraza
The man arrested by deputies last month and charged with possession of more than 100 grams of methamphetamine was released from jail Tuesday with time served.
The Kern County District Attorney's Office had to settle for a plea agreement because legal challenges to a search warrant threatened the entire case, a deputy district attorney said
Joe Brian Barraza, 26, was originally charged with 17 felony counts and three misdemeanors when he was arrested on July 15.
Kern County Sheriff's deputies said they found the methamphetamine, with an estimated street value of over $10,000, along with a cache of weapons in Barraza's Hillard Street home.
Deputies seized seven weapons, including an AK47 rifle, Bushmaster A-15 rifled equipped with an M-203 grenade launcher and Uzi machine pistol.
However, eight counts of possession of a firearm by a felon were dismissed when it was determined that a previous felony conviction had been reduced to a misdemeanor and expunged, said Deputy District Attorney Kevin Briley.
Then, a challenge to the search warrant deputies obtained to seize the drugs and weapons forced the prosecution to make a difficult decision: proceed and have most of the evidence suppressed, endangering the entire case, or settle.
"There were going to be issues with the search warrant," Briley said. "If we won, we'd be good. If we lost, everything would be suppressed. I wouldn't be able to tell a jury about the drugs."
That led to the plea agreement in which every charge but a charge of possession for sale would be dismissed.
The prosecution then argued for up to a year in jail, but the defense argument for time served won in court Tuesday.
Barraza was also placed on 3 years felony probation, meaning he is subject to search at any time, Briley said, and fined $350. He will alos be barred from possessing firearms or ammunition.
Barraza and a co-defendant, Daniel Valdez, were arrested on a burglary charge in Taft Heights.
Valdez, too was released earlier on time served.