Our client, age 23, had been out with old friends at the bars in Manhattan Beach. He was an Ivy League graduate and was playing professional basketball in the D-League, hoping to take the next big step into the NBA. While at the bars in Manhattan Beach, he had drunk a few beers with dinner.
As he was driving northbound on Sepulveda, with three friends in his car, he crossed over Rosecrans Boulevard and into the city limits of El Segundo. It was close to 3:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning. Coming down the hill from the traffic light at Rosecrans, he accelerated to 65 miles per hour. The posted speed limit for this section of Sepulveda is 45 miles per hour.
In a Nutshell: Client, a D-League professional basketball player, stopped for speeding on north Sepulveda Boulevard in El Segundo. His BAC was measured at 0.11%. Case resolved in Airport Courthouse for a wet reckless with no IID requirement.
Little did he know, but an El Segundo Police Officer was half way down the hill, parked inside the driveway that was the entrance to the new mall on the east side of Sepulveda. The officer looked at our client’s car and suspected it was speeding.
From a full stop, he watched our client pass by him and then the officer accelerated after him. Our client did not see the officer behind him. According to the officer, he sped up enough to match our client’s speed, conduct a bumper pace and then decided to make a traffic stop for speeding, a violation of Vehicle Code § 22350. The officer also claimed he observed our client making an unsafe lane change, in violation of Vehicle Code § 22108.
The remarkable thing about the police report was that the officer claimed to have done all these things and our client came to a full stop in just over 0.3 miles.
Our office looked at such a short distance with skepticism. Using simple math that a vehicle travels a mile a minute at 60 miles per hour, the events would have taken just over 20 seconds. In other words, the officer had to accelerate to 65 miles per hour, match our client’s speed, then pace our client for ten seconds (minimum compliance with National Highway Safety Protocol), turn on his flashing overhead lights, our client would have had to then notice these, and then respond by pulling over safely. There just was not enough time or distance for all of this to take place. We thus looked upon the credibility of the police officer as lacking, regardless of the fact that our client gave a breath sample that measured 0.11% blood alcohol content (BAC).
When the client came to our office, we told him that even if the officer were driving the fastest car in the world, with the best acceleration capabilities of any car, he still could not have done what he claimed in so short a distance.
Consequently, either the officer’s estimation of our client’s speed was inaccurate or the officer simply made a traffic stop based on a hunch (or by seeing four African American males speed by in a car).
Our office then looked at the police report and confirmed this set of incredible facts. We also noted that the “unsafe lane change” was not properly described. For a lane change to be unsafe, the vehicle must affect the safety of another driver, bicyclist or pedestrian. Simply making a lane change without using a turn signal, if no one else is affected, is not a violation of the law under People v. Carmona.
Our office then negotiated with the Airport District Attorney’s office based on these facts. Our client also began attending and actually completed the AB541 alcohol awareness program while the case was still pending.
Greg then met with the assistant head District Attorney at the Airport Courthouse and explained that while he would like to file a motion to suppress the evidence of our client’s breath alcohol content, he understood that the judge may not understand the math that showed the officer’s report was physically impossible. After all, Greg had filed such a motion before and lost on almost the same facts.
The assistant head deputy DA appreciated this as well, but was more impressed with our client having already finished the AB541 program, so she agreed to allow our client to resolve the case as a wet reckless. He still had to pay a court fine of $390, plus penalties and assessments, and take the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Victim Impact Panel (VIP) class, but he would avoid the requirement from the DMV that he install an ignition interlock device (IID), something that would cause this future-NBA player great embarrassment.
For more information about DUI and wet reckless pleas, please click on the following articles:
- What Punishment Do I Face for First-Time DUI?
- Why Is a “Wet Reckless” Better Than a DUI?
- Ten Things to Do If Stopped for DUI