Airport Courthouse, Third Time DUI, Case Dismissed
Sometimes, it is vital to have an attorney who visits the scene of the arrest to simply try to recreate the events. In the following case, the factual basis for the traffic stop seemed a bit odd, so we went to the location where the alleged Vehicle Code violation was observed.
Our client was charged with one count of driving under the influence of alcohol (Vehicle Code Section 23152(a)), a misdemeanor and one count of driving without a valid driver’s license (Vehicle Code Section 12500(a)). Our client had previously been convicted of DUI two times.
What to Take Away: Sometimes, one must visit the scene of a DUI arrest to understand what the officer wrote in the police report. In the following case, we did this and then pushed the case to a jury trial, even retaining an expert witness to testify on behalf of the defense. The prosecutor then announced he was unable to proceed, dismissing the case.
Police stopped our client at approximately at 1:20 a.m., as he allegedly was “burning out” at a traffic light near an on ramp to the 105 Freeway. At the time of the incident, it was raining lightly. When arrested, police asked our client to submit to a breathalyzer test at the roadside. Our client refused any test at all.
It was clear to us from the time of the arrest, and the location being nearby several strip clubs, that the officer strongly suspected alcohol was involved in client’s attempt to “burn out.”
The case was filed in the Airport Courthouse. Greg Hill of Greg Hill & Associates visited the scene of the arrest and took pictures of the roadway where our client was allegedly observed “burning out.” The road surface was very smooth from many cars having skidded over the road. Combined with automobile oil and rain, the surface was ice like.
Greg Hill showed the prosecutor the color photographs, enlarged to eight inches by ten inches, to point out the smooth road surface. Greg commented that the El Segundo Police Department officer surely was aware of this dangerous condition and that this was why he was parked nearby to have a convenient reason for stopping any motorist who appeared to have difficult driving.
Greg Hill argued there was no probable cause for the arrest, as the road surface was the cause of the apparently reckless, supposedly alcohol-induced, driving because the officer knew why our client slid about the roadway. At first, the DA was dubious of the road surface condition, especially given our client’s obvious self-interest in avoiding a third DUI. Greg Hill convinced the DA to visit the scene himself, which he did, but even after this, still wanted a plea bargain.
Greg Hill pushed the case to jury trial, hiring an accident reconstructionist to testify at trial about the coefficient of friction on the wet road surface and how it would induce “burning out.” The District Attorney, flustered and sensing we were intent on taking the case to trial, announced on the first day of trial that the People asked to dismiss the case (even the second charge concerning driving without a valid driver’s license).
Our client was very happy with the result. He had spent a good deal of money on the accident reconstructionist, but it clearly was worth it, as he avoided a lengthy license suspension that the DMV would have imposed if he were convicted in court. He also avoided the minimum 120 days in county jail, which most certainly would have led him to lose his job.
For more information about probable cause to make a traffic stop, such as for DUI, click on the following articles:
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