Hollywood, Second Time DUI, Defense Verdict at Jury Trial
Our client, age 32 and with a prior adjudication for murder as a juvenile, was charged with one count of driving under the influence of alcohol (a violation of Vehicle Code Section 23152(a)), a misdemeanor, and one count of driving while having a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or higher by weight (a violation of Vehicle Code Section 23152(b)).
Why This Summary Matters: It is possible to get a not guilty verdict in a DUI trial before a jury, as Greg Hill did in the Metropolitan Courthouse, as summarized in the following case. The jury agreed with the necessity defense that we argued because our client was chased by an angry mob out of the bar and he drove away in fear, only to be stopped and arrested for DUI.
He had been in a bar in Hollywood, where he enjoyed many drinks. At some point, he got into a fight and more than ten people surrounded him inside the bar, taking punches at him. A security video from inside the bar showed this.
He was later arrested after fleeing to his nearby car as almost ten bar patrons chased him, even kicking his car doors as he fled. One video, taken from a security camera outside the front entrance, showed our client literally being thrown out the front door several feet in the air and rolling on the concrete sidewalk to a stop inches from the street edge. This was especially amazing because our client stood perhaps six feet, four inches tall and weighed a solid 240 pounds. Our client then scrambled to his feet, holding his keys, jumped into his car and drove off in a hurry while some bar patrons kicked the sides of his old classic car.
Our client told the police who later arrested him, “I feared for my life, so I drove my car drunk.” These grounds for a necessity defense were in the police report.
Police helicopters and several police cars were used to stop our client, as the bar called 911 and mistakenly told 911 that our client was armed with a knife. One of his client’s hands had a broken finger, which was in a splint, which someone mistook as a knife.
There was little doubt that our client’s blood alcohol level was above the legal limit when he was driving (section 23152(b)), as his BAC was 0.13%.
However, as to the section 23152(a) charge, officers never actually observed him driving, as they arrested him at a nearby gas station after helicopters spotted him stopped there getting gas. In other words, the arresting officers at the scene lacked the ability to testify about whether our client’s “mental and physical abilities were so impaired that he could no longer drive with the caution of a sober person, using ordinary care, under similar circumstances.” This quoted portion is from the jury instructions for the Vehicle Code § 23152(a) charge.
At the DMV hearing, the DMV reinstated our client’s license, finding that the necessity defense was a complete defense to our client driving at all. The DMV viewed the video and realized our client had no alternative, but to drive to save his life.
The Los Angeles City Attorney at the Metropolitan Courthouse was not as easy to persuade of this and the case proceeded to a jury trial. Trial lasted five days.
The jury was shown the security camera videos from the bar several times. They heard the police officers testify that they never observed any compromise in how our client operated his vehicle. They had no idea that he was even intoxicated until after they detected the odor of alcohol in his breath and had him submit to a breath test. The jury was instructed about the necessity defense.
After several hours of deliberating, the jury returned a defense verdict on the section 23152(a) count. Our client was very happy; however, he was convicted of driving with a BAC of 0.08% or higher.
This verdict was internally inconsistent, we thought, as the same necessity defense that applied to his driving at all certainly should have equally applied to his driving being considered in the charge of violating Vehicle Code § 23152(b). The client and Greg discussed this odd verdict and the client opted not to appeal the jury’s verdict. He simply wanted closure on this chapter in his life.
For more information about the punishment for a DUI, a trial tax and what to wear to court, click on the following articles:
- What Punishment Might I Face for a First-Time DUI?
- What Is a “Trial Tax?”
- What Should I Wear and Bring to Court?
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