Defense: Drunk-Driving Woman Was Fleeing Violent Boyfriend

A woman was acquitted Wednesday of driving under the influence of alcohol after a San Francisco jury determined it was necessary for her to drive to escape from her violent boyfriend, according to the public defender’s office.

Marlise Paulo, 25, of Oroville in Butte County, had been charged with misdemeanor DUI charges in connection with the Sept. 8, 2013 incident, when she and her boyfriend had come to the city to attend a San Francisco 49ers game and celebrate the boyfriend’s birthday.

The couple parked near their hotel and went out for drinks, first at a pub and then at the Crazy Horse Gentlemen’s Club on Market Street. Bouncers eventually kicked out Paulo’s boyfriend for being belligerent and spitting chewing tobacco on the floor, according to the public defender’s office.

The boyfriend then became aggressive toward Paulo, grabbing her and accusing her of taking the bouncers’ side. She walked back to the hotel alone and fell asleep, but awoke to the boyfriend pounding on the door, according to the public defender’s office.

Paulo testified that when she opened the door, the boyfriend grabbed her and threw her into the nightstand, giving her a black eye and a cut on her scalp. She then ran out and locked herself in the hotel’s shared bathroom, then hurried to her car after the boyfriend stopped pounding on the bathroom door.

As she sat in the parked car, the boyfriend approached again and pounded on the windows and threatened to beat and kill her, according to the public defender’s office.

Paulo drove off and turned the wrong way on Bryant Street, where she was pulled over by California Highway Patrol officers, who noticed her injuries and suspected domestic violence, according to the public defender’s office.

However, fearful of retribution and in an effort to protect the boyfriend, who was on felony probation, Paulo denied being attacked and said she accidentally hit her head against a wall. She was then arrested after being treated by paramedics.

A domestic violence expert testified during the trial that Paulo suffered from battered woman syndrome and had a history of being abused by the boyfriend, according to the public defender’s office.

After four hours of deliberations on Wednesday, the jury acquitted her of all charges, which carried a maximum sentence of a year in jail.

“Ms. Paulo was a crime victim who was acting in an emergency,” Public Defender Jeff Adachi said in a statement. “Fortunately, the law recognizes that sometimes you have to decide between two bad options in order to survive.”

Paul has since left her boyfriend, according to the public defender’s office.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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