Our client, then age 67, was picking up his wife and two other friends from the Redondo Beach Life Festival that took place in the late summer near the Seaside Lagoon by the Redondo Beach Pier. The festival, with its live music from popular bands, craft beer and food trucks, was especially appreciated in 2021 due to more than a year of COVID-19 social distancing, so it was not unexpected that some attendees planned on enjoying the festival to the fullest extent possible.
Doing so for some meant drinking a fair share of alcohol, which our client’s friends certainly did. Our client, in contrast, opted out of attending the festival and offered to pick up his wife and the two other friends once they called. Our client spent the day tinkering around his boat in the Redondo Beach harbor, during which time he enjoyed two large glasses of wine.
When his wife and the two friends called our client to pick them up, our client got in his 2008 Acura MDX and drove just about a half mile to the place where his wife asked to be picked up.
As our client neared the location and pulled over toward the right side of the road, he politely turned his headlights off to not blind those looking toward his car, but turned on his parking lights to remain visible.
Our client’s wife and the other couple then got in our client’s car. Our client drove no more than 30 yards before a police officer pulled over our client.
As our client was approached by the officer to the driver’s side window, our client could be seen on the police officer’s body-cam turning off his lights and putting his car into park. The officer then immediately asked our client if our client had consumed any alcohol that evening.
The traffic stop seemed entirely premised on our client being near the Redondo Beach Life Festival and, presumably, drinking in excess.
Just as our client was producing his driver’s license and registration for the officer, another officer approached the car and asked that the passenger’s exit the vehicle. According to the officer, the friend of our client’s wife had been involved in an argument with another Beach Life Festival attendee and had thrown water at the other person (a battery).
The female passenger from our client’s car was then arrested for battery and our client was arrested for DUI. Our client’s blood alcohol level was measured at 0.14%.
Our client, who was a retired engineer, was booked at the Redondo Beach Police Station and released the following morning.
Upon being released, he called Greg Hill & Associates and discussed his arrest with Greg. He was quite embarrassed by the arrest and had prior criminal history. He was articulate and asked intelligent questions about how his DUI would most likely proceed. He was respectful in his demeanor.
Greg explained how arrests for DUI from Redondo Beach are generally prosecuted in the Torrance Courthouse and the terms of probation that are common for someone with a 0.14% BAC with a first-time DUI. Greg described how he would request various documents from the Redondo Beach Police Department and the DMV.
After being retained, our office requested such documents and received the body-cam video from the arresting officer.
The police report stated in multiple places that our client’s car was stopped for one reason: driving with no headlights illuminated. However, the body-cam video of our client’s arrest showed our client being stopped and showed our client turning off his headlights. It was clearly visible that the lights on the pavement in front of our client’s car were illuminated and then dark after our client turned off the lights.
Greg then prepared, filed and served a motion under Penal Code § 1538.5 to suppress all evidence obtained from our client following the traffic stop, as it clearly was not a stop for the one reason the police claimed. The video evidence was impossible for the police to deny.
However, after we filed and served the motion, the Redondo Beach City Prosecutor filed their opposition to the motion, arguing that the traffic stop was also made because our client’s car had a passenger involved in a battery.
Greg explained to the client this common “Oh, there are other reasons not stated as the reason” argument by the prosecution. Greg, who has become frustrated by this repeated tactic by law enforcement and prosecutors, explained to the client that judges, often former prosecutors themselves, will then deny the motion, reasoning that it is not good to punish the police for a mistake in their police report drafting. In other words, the defendant should not enjoy a windfall when the police accidentally left something out of the police report.
On the other hand, some judges are not so nice to the police and hold them accountable for what they stated contemporaneously to the arrest. No luxury of explaining their reporting mistake is allowed.
Greg and the client then agreed to have Greg offer to take the motion to suppress off calendar if the prosecution would offer our client a plea bargain to a wet reckless as a compromise.
The prosecutor agreed. Our client was happy because with a wet reckless (a plea to Vehicle Code § 23103 pursuant to 23103.5), his probation period was only one year and he would not have to install an ignition interlock device with a conviction for reckless driving.
For more information about the DUI issues in this case, please click on the following articles: