Our client was returning home from a Friday evening Christmas party at a local Hermosa Beach restaurant for his employer, where he was a supervisor. He was 57 at the time and had no criminal history. The party started early and everyone left by 7:45 p.m.
As he drove eastbound on Artesia, just past the intersection with Aviation Avenue, he noticed about ten to twenty very bright lights, including flashing lights of police cars, up ahead. Our client thought there must have been a terrible accident or some type of emergency road construction taking place, perhaps a sewer line break. So, he drove on, curious as to what he would see.
Traffic then began to slow and our client realized he was driving into a DUI checkpoint. In fact, he was one of the very first cars driving into the checkpoint. Police were just setting it up as our client arrived.
Police funneled eastbound Artesia Boulevard traffic into a single-file line and our client had only a very short wait before speaking to an officer. The officer directed our client to the nearby CVS parking lot, where our client was instructed to get out of his car and perform some field sobriety tests. Our client was then asked to give a breath sample, which he did. His blood alcohol content (BAC) was measured at 0.17%, which reflected the glass of wine and two beers he had at the party he recalled drinking.
Our client was then arrested and taken to the Redondo Beach police station. His car was impounded. At the Redondo Beach police station, he submitted to a further breath test with the same results.
After spending the night in the police station to sober up and being released after signing a promise to appear in the Torrance Courthouse about six weeks later, he got an Uber ride home. He then called Greg Hill & Associates that Saturday. Greg answered the call and discussed the case with the client, particularly the signage leading into the check point stop.
Greg explained that such a random stop by police along a highway has been challenged as an illegal search and seizure in many states over the years, including in California. The issue was finally addressed by the California Supreme Court in Ingersoll v. Palmer (1987) 43 Cal.3d 1321, 743 P.2d 1299; 241 Cal. Rptr. 42, wherein the court said such a stop was proper and not unreasonable if it is announced in the newspapers in advance and as one drives into the checkpoints, one is given he opportunity to divert to another street in advance – and police cannot chase someone who turns away.
The client then retained Greg Hill & Associates and Greg appeared in court at the Torrance Superior Court for many hearings on the case. Of most interest was the client’s description of being one of the very first cars driving into the checkpoint stop because his description did not include much description of advance notice of the checkpoint and only a very limited amount of orange cones being set up.
Greg then requested an “Ingersoll packet” from the Redondo Beach City Prosecutor, which includes all the details of the planning of the stop, the press release, the lighting plan, the staffing assignments and diagrams of the checkpoint set up.
From the packet, Greg learned that in the 5 hours that the check point had been operated that evening, our client indeed was one of the first ones checked and was literally the only one arrested for DUI at the stop.
Greg also found out that the news release was never published by the Daily Breeze and there were no instructions to officers about not pursuing drivers who turned away. There also was not enough lighting that it “looked like a movie set.” People v. Banks (1993) 6 Cal.4th 926, 949. It needs to be clearly marked as such for an approaching motorist and if a motorist decides to turn away from the checkpoint, police may not pursue such a driver. Banks, supra.
Greg then filed a motion to suppress the evidence of our client’s BAC due to an unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment. The judge hearing the motion denied the motion, finding that such shortcomings were significant, but that the stop was legal, which Greg believed was clear legal error.
The client then entered into a plea bargain for 36 months of informal, or summary probation, with an obligation to take the six-month DUI program (AB 762), pay court fees of $390, plus penalties and assessments (less credit of $250 toward the $390 for two days in custody), attend the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) victim impact panel and pay the $245 Redondo Beach booking fee.
At the eighteen month mark, our office then filed a motion for early termination of probation for the client, which the judge granted. Our office then filed a petition for dismissal of the case (expungement) under Penal Code § 1203.4, which the judge also granted.
For more information about early termination of probation and expungement, please click on the following articles: