Our client, age 24, was driving home from a Fullerton bar with his girlfriend. It was about 2:00 a.m. The two lived in Long Beach. Our client was on five years of informal probation for a misdemeanor DUI from four years earlier, so he was not allowed to drive with any measurable alcohol in his blood.
Somehow however, most likely because our client was impaired by alcohol and because he was arguing with his girlfriend, the two got lost and were headed northbound on the I-5 towards Lancaster. Our client was allegedly also speeding, weaving in and out of traffic.
As our client approached the San Fernando area, he rear-ended another motorist, age 27, in the number one lane. The other motorist estimated our client was going 75 miles per hour and he was going 55 miles per hour. The force of the impact spun the other car into the center divider, at which times his airbags inflated. The car then ricocheted across all four lanes of the I-5, coming to a stop sideways on the right shoulder.
Our client immediately pulled over and was relieved that the other party was ambulating and coherent, although certainly stunned by the collision.
The CHP arrived on scene and arrested our client. An ambulance took the other driver off to the hospital, where he was reported to be nauseous and had “racoon eyes” from the airbags impacting his face and bruising his face. He was otherwise fine and released in a few hours.
Our client submitted to a breath test, which measured his blood alcohol content at 0.17% and 0.18%.
The client immediately hired an attorney marketing himself as “The DUI Guy,” who was very expensive and recommended that the client accept the first offer, which was 180 days in county jail and five years of formal probation with a plea to a felony violation of Vehicle Code § 23153(b). As part of the plea bargain, the client would also have to enroll in and complete the SB 38 18-month alcohol awareness program and serve 96 hours in county jail with no credit for six days that he did serve in county jail after the accident.
The client fired this attorney and substituted in Greg Hill and Associates instead. Greg and the client had good rapport from the outset because the client had served in the Marines, like Greg, and because Greg discussed Veteran’s Diversion, 1170.9 probation and even Veteran’s Court with the client, which the other attorney did not.
While Veteran’s Diversion was not an option unless we could have the DUI brought as a misdemeanor instead, which we thought was possible given the minor injuries of the other party. However, ultimately, over six months of court appearances, was too much to request of the prosecutor, despite Greg presenting evidence of our client suffering from service-related PTSD, traumatic brain injury (TBI) and alcohol dependency. Our client had also started a rehabilitation and therapy program through the Long Beach VA.
As the prosecutor candidly remarked to Greg, “DUI’s in San Fernando are different.” Many of the DUI’s involved car accidents at high speed on the freeways nearby and several of the judges had particular interest in ensuring each DUI defendant served significant jail or prison time. It was almost like how DUI’s are handled in Riverside or San Bernardino County.
With the presentation of our client’s service history and more facts about the other party’s injuries, Greg was able to negotiate the plea bargain to no jail time (the client got credit for the six days actual he served), but the client did agree to a three-year joint suspended sentence, completion of the SB 38 eighteen-month DUI program, a year’s worth of therapy at the VA and 45 days of community labor, as well as restitution to the other driver for any expenses not paid for through his insurance.
The client was very happy he had hired Greg Hill and Associates, as he avoided the 180 days in county jail that his first attorney strongly recommended he accept. He also appreciated that Greg explained why Veteran’s Court actually was not such an attractive option, although many of his fellow veterans at the VA recommended it.
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