Our client, age 53, was unemployed after many years of working in the financial services industry. His wife worked, so our client stayed at home with his teenage daughter.
One morning, after dropping her off at the local high school, he went down to the local liquor store to get a newspaper, a fifth of vodka and a quart of grapefruit juice. He got the newspaper and then, while still in the parking lot of the liquor store, made a mixed drink of vodka and grapefruit juice.
He proceeded to read the newspaper leisurely while downing the entire pint of vodka with grapefruit juice. He then got out of his car and put the empty vodka bottle and the empty grapefruit juice bottle in the trash can outside the liquor store, along with the newspaper. He felt great.
He then decided to return home to take a nap. The drive home was about three miles, with many curves in the road. As he was negotiating one of the turns at the corner of Palos Verdes Drive North and Via Valmonte, he swung wide and clipped a large eucalyptus tree. The force of the impact dislodged the caps at the ends of his front bumper on his jeep. The caps were left on the ground near the tree.
Three witnesses observed this crash and our client weaving all over Palos Verdes Drive North. Two of the witnesses called 911 almost simultaneously to report the driver.
A Palos Verdes Estates police officer was dispatched from the Malaga Cove area toward the accident scene about 1.5 miles away. However, witnesses said our client never stopped his car and in fact, kept driving toward Malaga Cove.
The police car intercepted our client, despite the divided road, by apparently recognizing a match of the description of our client’s car and seeing the car. The traffic stop took place just 0.2 miles away from the accident scene, according to the police report.
According to the police report, the client was asked to submit to a breath test at the scene and did so. His first breath sample was measured at 0.31% BAC, almost four times the legal limit. On the second breath sample, after he blew out, he allegedly tried to “suck the air back out of the machine” before it could be measured. This did work to some degree, as his second breath sample was measured at 0.27% BAC, which was more than the 0.02% maximum allowed deviation between samples.
The client was then arrested by the Palos Verdes Estates Police Department. The arrest took place at 1:30 p.m., according to the police report. While at the station, the client allegedly refused both a blood or further breath test.
The client was released later in the day and called Greg Hill & Associates. The client had no prior criminal history, so this turn of events was extremely disturbing to him. He was confused about what would happen. The client met with Greg Hill the same day and explained what had happened. The client said his Jeep’s bumper was not damaged at all and that he went to the liquor store about 8:45 a.m., but blacked out thereafter and did not remember anything.
He asked Greg what he thought would happen and Greg commented that he was not sure if the client was truly the driver who was involved in a crash with the tree if his car’s bumper was not damaged, but could not really opine more since the client blacked out after leaving the liquor store.
When Greg did receive the police report from the DMV and saw how the arrest was about five hours after our client was at the liquor store and that the arrest was just 0.2 miles from where the collision was, but the officer rushed from 1.5 miles away, Greg became suspicious of whether our client was truly the driver the witnesses reported. After all, it would have seemed as if our client would have driven much farther than just 0.2 miles in the time that it took the police to cover 1.5 miles. Moreover, our client’s jeep was a common color.
However, after observing the facts closer, and discussing the case with the client more, it became clear that the client actually was the drunk driver observed by witnesses. It appeared that our client had either driven home, napped, and then left his home again and not remembered it due to his extreme intoxication, or he simply parked and passed out en-route from the liquor store driving home, only to awake, drive a ways and collide with the tree.
The offer from the DA in Torrance was that our client would be placed on thirty-six months of summary probation, contingent upon him enrolling in and completing the nine-month alcohol awareness program (AB1353), payment of a court fine of $390 plus penalties and assessments (less credit for two days in custody, so total owed was $912.00) and attendance at both the Hospital and Morgue (HAM) program and the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Victim Impact Panel. The client also agreed to pay any restitution, if any, for damage to the tree owned by the City of Palos Verdes Estates, which would be zero.
Greg and the client discussed how the offer, if rejected, would mean the case would next proceed up to Department P of the Torrance court, where there was a very young DA and a judge who enjoyed engaging in discussions about resolving the case. Based on Greg’s experience with both this DA and the judge, Greg predicted the terms of the offer would go up substantially.
Therefore, our client agreed to resolve the case on the terms offered by the prosecutor in Department 3. All terms of the offer, after all, were statutory minimums for a case whose facts suggested the minimum facts for a DUI were certainly exceeded.