Our client, age 39, was having a tough time at work and in life. She called up a good friend to have a drink or two at a local bar to relieve some stress. The two watched the Dodgers in the World Series and once the game ended, our client headed home.
Two blocks from the bar, she suddenly felt the full effects of the alcohol, so she pulled over to the roadside to take a nap. She then turned off her car and began to nap.
Summary in 50 Words or Less: Client pulls over to sleep on way home from bar. Cops find here and do a welfare-safety check. She submits to a blood draw over three hours after cops find her. Her BAC was over 0.20% when she last drove. Case resolved for DUI with only three-month DUI program, rather than a nine-month program as her BAC would otherwise require.
At some point, she awoke to tapping on her side window and, to her surprise, saw it was a police officer. The client got out of the car and was immediately accused of being DUI. It was 10:53 p.m. according to the police report.
The police officer asked our client to submit to a roadside breath test on the preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) device and our client declined, which is her right. She was then arrested and taken to the Hawthorne Police Station.
Once there, she was given the option of a breath or blood test and selected a blood test. At 2:17 a.m., fully three hours and twenty-four minutes after the last possible time she could have driven, she submitted to the blood draw. Her blood alcohol content (BAC) was measured weeks later at the CHP laboratory in Downey at 0.14%.
After providing her blood, she was released on her own recognizance with a signed promise to appear in the Inglewood courthouse about three months later. She immediately called Greg Hill & Associates and met with Greg Hill the same day as her release from jail.
The client described what had happened and her concerns for her teaching credential at work. Greg focused in on the time lapse between the client’s last driving, her drinking pattern and the time of the blood draw, explaining that these would likely be the determinative issues. Greg also measured the distance the client had driven from the bar to where she parked and discovered it was literally 0.2 miles.
Greg then explained that whatever BAC the client’s blood was measured at (when Greg met with the client the day after the arrest, the CHP lab had not yet measured the client’s BAC), the prosecution would attempt to reverse extrapolate the BAC by adding 0.018% BAC per hour to the measured BAC to approximate the client’s BAC when the client last drove.
Greg explained that this methodology was recognized as pure junk science by the leading prosecution expert, Kirk Dombrowski, but prosecutors were often eager enough for convictions that they would simply ignore Dombrowski’s published work on reverse extrapolation.
Dombrowski explained that reverse extrapolation is an educated guess at best and requires that the client’s BAC be declining throughout the time, which would not be a safe assumption for our client because she finished drinking right before leaving the bar and then only drove for two minutes maximum before parking. A normal human being takes at least 30 minutes to absorb ethanol and begin metabolizing it into the blood, but this is highly variable. Some people absorb alcohol slower or faster than this average, depending upon one’s age, gender, body fat, hematocrit, liver health, blood abnormalities (if any), stomach content and about a dozen other factors.
Greg then appeared at the arraignment in the Inglewood Superior Court on the client’s behalf and discussed the facts of the case with the Hawthorne City Attorney. This attorney was extremely experienced and Greg had known him for many years. The two even were both prior servicemen, so there was an easy rapport between the two.
Greg explained the reverse extrapolation issue and the prosecutor understood the risks. Instead of seeking a plea bargain with a nine-month alcohol awareness program as would be appropriate for a person with a 0.20% BAC (by reverse extrapolation from the 0.14% BAC, adding 0.06% based on three hours and 20 minutes until the blood test), the prosecutor agreed to offer our client just a three-month alcohol awareness program. Greg wanted to resolve the case for a wet reckless.
Greg then discussed the plea bargain offered with the client, explaining that it would be possible to take the matter to trial with an alcohol expert witness, but such a trial could be risky and expensive. The client then agreed to the plea bargain, which included three years of summary probation, a minimum fine ($390, plus penalties and assessments, less credit for two days in custody, so $968), the three-month alcohol awareness program (AB541) and the $200 Hawthorne booking fee.