Our client went with several friends to the Vans U.S. Open of Surfing contest at the Huntington Beach Pier. He sat down on a cement bench near the base of the pier and decided to smoke a cigarette. There were signs nearby that said no smoking in public.
Without All the Details, What Happened?: Fight with Police at Huntington Beach Pier; Arrested for Felony Resisting Arrest (PC § 69); Case Resolved for No Fines, No Jail, No Community Service and a Misdemeanor.
The were many police officers patrolling the area because in the past, the gathering had been the occasion for riots and vandalism of local business and parked cars. Many people had been injured in the past as well.
A burly uniformed police officer spotted our client, who was heavily tattooed and muscular. He saw our client smoking a cigarette and decided to cite him for a municipal code violation for smoking in public.
With two other large officers, the officer aggressively approached our client, ready for resistance and possibly a fight. One officer was holding his mace dispenser at the ready and another had his baton out, according to witnesses.
Our client saw the three officers approaching him and got scared. He stood up and ran. The police officers gave chase, following him up a cement stair case, where they tackled him. A large group of teenagers and other young adults followed the officers, cell phones ready to record police brutality if it occurred.
It did. Officers piled on top of our client, twisting his body in many directions while ironically yelling “stop resting!” He was not able to resist with four officers on top of him. They twisted his leg so much they in fact even broke his tibia.
Finally, officers hog-tied our client, which was completely unnecessary because they broke his leg. He could not run away or resist further. The officers then carried him to a police van like a trophy for all others to see.
The officers also arrested five of our client’s friends who videotaped the melee and who officers decided were interfering with the arrest.
A few days later, the client and his mom came to our office, worried that the client faced time in jail and eager to sue the Huntington Beach Police Department, alleging excessive force due to the broken leg. In this regard, Greg explained that the very best thing to do was to address the criminal case first, rather than file a civil lawsuit which could cause the prosecutor to insist upon a harsh disposition to undermine the merits of a civil lawsuit.
The client explained what had taken place and Greg explained the “least dangerous alternative” defense, which is similar to the duress defense; or necessity defense. The client also told him that he missed no work due to his broken leg and paid nothing for his medical expenses. This meant any damages in a civil case would be minimal to zero.
Greg appeared first at the arraignment and received the initial offer from the district attorney at the Westminster Superior Court: 90 days in the Orange County jail and 45 days of community service, plus giving a DNA sample and serving three years of summary probation. The other five defendants were represented by five other attorneys, some of which quickly accepted deals and convictions with minimal punishment.
Greg almost laughed at the harsh initial offer stated by the young Orange County prosecutor. The prosecutor had not read any of the roughly 250 page police report and admitted as much, but was firm with his offer.
Greg and the client went through the report, which included seven officer’s reports, as well as several supplemental reports.
At the next few pre-trial hearings over more than six months, Greg was able to negotiate the 90 days of county jail down to 60 days, then down to 30 days and then down to 10 days. After several months, the DA fully dropped any county jail requirement and reduced the Cal-Trans obligation from 45 days to 35 days to 25 days and then dropped it altogether. The reason the prosecutor continually dropped the jail component and the Cal-Trans requirement was because many further police reports came in which showed our clients was just one of many people beaten by police at the pier that afternoon.
It further became obvious to the prosecutor and her supervisor that taking the matter to trial would be tough and they wanted to make our client an offer he simply could not refuse: no jail and no Cal-Trans. Our client accepted this.
Mindful that if he were to take the case to trial, it would be his word against a police officer’s word. A police officer is generally believed by juries, whereas our tattooed, muscular client may not be. It was not a risk our client wanted to take.
For more information about the issues in this case summary, click on the following articles:
- What is “Resisting Arrest” Under Penal Code § 69?
- What is a Trial Tax?
- What is Community Service, Community Labor and Cal-Trans?