At age 27, our client enjoyed an upwardly mobile future. She had no criminal history, a college degree and a good job.
Synopsis: DMV agrees that the CHP’s traffic stop of our client was improper; sets aside suspension of our client's license.
This all was put in jeopardy after a late-night Hollywood dinner and drinks on a Thursday night. The evening stretched into Friday morning.
As she was driving home on the empty101 Freeway, she made a lane change, allegedly without using her turn signal. A CHP officer quickly activated his car’s overhead lights and pulled over our client as she exited the freeway at Vineland. It was about 1:00 a.m.
The arresting officer’s first question to our client was whether she had been drinking, not whether she knew why he pulled her over or a request for her driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance. The question was before he could notice the odor of alcohol. The officer did not even tell our client why he pulled her over until much later. Our client honestly stated she had enjoyed two drinks with alcohol that evening so the officer put our client through a series of field sobriety tests (FST’s). According to the police report, our client failed the FST’s. Our client was wearing high heels, but the officer did not allow her to take these off.
Our client was then asked to submit to a roadside breath test, which she did, and her breath was measured at 0.08% blood alcohol content (BAC). She was promptly arrested.
It was at this point that the officer told our client the reason for the traffic stop, as if he was only doing so as an administrative requirement because, after all, what he was really doing is just trying to find DUI drivers rather than unsafe drivers.
Being taken to jail and being held for several hours was extremely traumatic for our client, who had never even been to a police station before. She missed work the following day without being able to call her employer.
One released, she immediately called Greg Hill and Associates, and arranged a meeting. She met with Greg Hill, who listened to the client describe everything that happened.
The alleged reason for the traffic stop is what interested Greg the most because it appeared that the single lane change without a blinker or turn signal, in such circumstances, was not illegal. Consequently, the traffic stop by the officer was improper.
Greg had in mind People v. Carmona
(2011) DJDAR 7744), wherein La Habra Police officers stopped Paul Carmona after the officer allegedly observed Carmona violate Vehicle Code § 22108, which requires a driver to use his turn signal for 100 feet prior to turning. Once pulling over, he found out that Carmona was on parole. Police then searched his car and found methamphetamine as well as other controlled substances. Carmona was then arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance and other crimes.
Carmona moved to suppress the evidence found in the traffic stop, arguing that the traffic stop was improper because the lane change did not affect the safety of any other driver. The Orange county judge hearing the motion denied the motion and Carmona appealed to the Fourth Appellate District court. The appellate court reversed, agreeing with Carmona and suppressing the evidence.
Greg explained this case to the client.
At the DMV hearing, Greg then argued that in the case of our client, as in Carmona, the traffic stop was similarly improper. This was so because in the police report of the traffic stop for our client, the officer failed to describe or state that our client’s lane change affected the safety of any other driver. Therefore, the evidence of our client’s blood alcohol content (BAC) was inadmissible as the fruit of the poisonous tree.
To the client’s delight, the DMV agreed and set aside the suspension of our client’s license.
For more information about improper traffic stops and DMV hearings in general, click on the following articles:
- Good Faith Exception to Officer’s Execution of an Improper Search Warrant Does Not Have Similar Application to an Improper Traffic Stop
- Traffic Stop Ruled Improper and Evidence Seized by Police Suppressed When Officer Lacked Reasonable Suspicion to Stop Driver
- What Is a DMV Hearing for a DUI?
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