Our client, age 34, had gone out to several bars in Hermosa Beach with her friends from work. At some point, she believes, she “blacked out” and tried to drive back to her home in Long Beach.
She made it to Gardena and pulled over, apparently to sleep. She found what she believed was a quiet side street in a residential area, positioned her car to the side of the road and fell asleep.
Her car was noticed by the Gardena Police Department at about 8:45 a.m. It was described as parked in an askew position, having its windshield wipers operating and being in gear to drive. It was not in park. The ignition was still running and our client was asleep, hunched over the wheel, snoring loudly. She was the only one in her car.
Officers described their attempts to wake up our client as needing to almost break a window.
When our client awoke and opened the car door, officers claimed they immediately noticed the odor of marijuana and alcohol. Our client stumbled out of the car and allegedly gave consent to officers to search her car, where they found a marijuana bong, a small baggie of marijuana and rolling paper. Our client then submitted to a breath test at the scene, which measured the ethanol in her breath, as a proxy for the ethanol in her blood, at 0.20%.
It was unknown when our client left the bar or how long she had been on the side of the road asleep, but since her car still had the ignition on and the car in drive (not park), she was unfortunately, legally still driving.
This was a tragedy on many levels. At age 25 in 2012, our client was convicted of DUI in the Downey Superior Court. In 2014, she was convicted of two more DUI’s, one in Downey again and one out of the Metropolitan Courthouse. Luckily, her second and third DUI cases were consolidated and she served just ten days in county jail as punishment for both. Moreover, in 2013, she was convicted of public intoxication due to alcohol and in 2017, she was convicted of disturbing the peace, again due to an alcohol-related event.
The client was then arrested and taken to the Gardena Police Station, where she submitted to a blood test. Her blood ethanol level was measured at the same 0.20% BAC and cannabinoids were detected in her blood.
The client then called Greg Hill & Associates and described what had happened. She also described her history, but thought her second and third DUI’s were considered a single DUI, making her fourth DUI actually her third. She also explained that she was a single mom with a sixteen-year-old son. She explained that the father had returned to Mexico and she had not seen him in about sixteen years.
Greg explained how a non-accident felony DUI is generally handled in Torrance, but cautioned that because the client’s BAC was quite high when measured perhaps six hours after she last drank, and that she had other alcohol-related convictions, the prosecutors may take a tough approach.
The Torrance District Attorneys Office indeed did take a tough approach at first. The initial offer to plea bargain our client’s case was two years in state prison, which would be devastating to our client’s son and our client.
Greg then researched various residential treatment programs in the local area and encouraged our client to talk to each about entering a residential treatment program that would include her son living with her at the residential setting. Greg also encouraged the client to start the SB 38 eighteen-month DUI program.
Over the next few months, with more than one change in the handling prosecutor assigned to the case, Greg was eventually able to resolve the case for a plea of no contest by the client to a change of violating Vehicle Code § 23152(b) as a felony, while being sentenced to two years in state prison suspended and then being obligated to enter and complete a six-month residential alcohol treatment program, followed by a six month outpatient program, with one year on the SCRAM device, completion of the SB 38 program and payment of $390, plus penalties and assessments in court fines.
This was a very lucky resolution, as going to state prison would have long-term scaring effects on not only the client’s self-esteem, but her son’s as well, and would avoid the rehabilitation she needed.
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