San Diego City Attorney Mara W. Elliott announced Deputy City Attorney Monique Rohani Dulanto has been honored by the local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving as its Outstanding Prosecutor of the Year.
Dulanto received her award at a virtual ceremony on June 23, during MADD’s annual Law Enforcement & Prosecutor Recognition awards.
Dulanto takes on many of the office’s toughest DUI cases, those involving driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. Since joining the San Diego City Attorney’s Office in June 2018, Dulanto has tried 11 cases, winning jury convictions in nine of them.
Dulanto is the lead prosecutor on the City Attorney’s special Drug DUI vertical prosecution team, which prosecutes thousands of DUI cases a year, with a conviction rate of more than 98%. Since her unit focuses so heavily on trial preparation, and ensuring all the evidence is airtight, the majority of cases they prosecute result in guilty pleas before trial.
Dulanto earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science at UCSD, then graduated from University of San Diego School of Law in 2017.
She always knew she wanted to be a prosecutor, but having the chance to work at the City Attorney’s Office during a 2015 internship validated her choice, Dulanto said.
“I’ve been passionate about prosecuting drug and DUI cases from a young age, due to issues my family had to face,” she said, adding that her grandfather was killed by a drunk driver.
Dulanto said she appreciates the City Attorney’s approach to these cases, which focuses on getting people the help they need to address the underlying issues that led to the DUI.
The types of cases Dulanto prosecutes often involve driving under the influence of prescription drugs – which is illegal if it affects your ability to safely operate a vehicle. In one recent case a man crashed his car into a parked vehicle that had a young child inside. The defendant admitted to police that he hit the car, and offered to pay the other driver $500 to leave the scene.
The defendant was found to have the anti-anxiety medication Xanax in his system, and he had two prior DUIs in 2016 and 2012, also involving Xanax. Faced with the evidence against him, he chose to plead guilty, for which he received 240 days of house arrest and five years’ probation. He is also required to complete a MADD Victim Impact Panel, and the Multiple Conviction Program.
The prosecutors on this team handle each case vertically, with one Deputy City Attorney in charge of each case from arrest through conviction and sentencing. The team members also work with the state’s Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor Program to expand knowledge and resources in the emerging problem of drug-impaired driving throughout California.