Our client, age 49, went out to a San Fernando brewery with co-workers and taste-tested a few different beers. The samples were less than a full beer, so when the group decided to leave and get a hamburger at a pop-up stand a few miles away in Northridge, our client felt safe to drive his Ford Edge there.
It was about 7:00 p.m. in February, so it was just past dark when our client left the brewery to head to the pop-up stand. He was heading southbound on Glenoaks Boulevard, approaching the 118 Freeway and looking at his car’s GPS display.
Suddenly, he heard a loud bang and looked up to the road. He could see a corner of his windshield was cracked and thought someone had thrown a rock or even a brick at his car.
Our client had no idea that he had just collided with a man who was running across the crowded street, jaywalking. A video from a security camera showed the victim dart across traffic, narrowly missing being hit by traffic coming the opposite direction, pause a second or two in the center of the street, and then dart in between traffic.
The decedent died at the scene. It was later revealed that he had a 0.24% BAC and was armed with a knife and was wearing body armor. He was a multi-time felon who had spent several years in state prison on a variety of charges including joyriding (Vehicle Code § 10851) and several felonies for check fraud, identity theft, receiving stolen property, grand theft auto and using a counterfeit seal. He also had multiple DUI convictions and convictions for solicitation of prostitution He was 42.
As our client had no idea that he had hit a person, he did not stop. Instead, he continued to Northridge, where he met with his friends at the pop-up hamburger stand and had a hamburger.
Our client then returned home and saw police were waiting for him as he arrived. As it turns out, a witness to the collision observed our client’s license plate and reported the accident to 911.
When police asked our client if he knew why they were arresting him, our client said, “I will report the accident to my insurance.” Police then had to advise our client that he hit a pedestrian, and furthermore, that the pedestrian had passed away at the scene.
Our client then submitted to a blood test, which measured his blood alcohol content at 0.082%, enough for DUI.
The client then retained Greg Hill & Associates, along with another criminal defense attorney with over 30 years’ experience as a District Attorney.
The client was charged with felony hit and run resulting in serious injury or death, in violation of Vehicle Code § 20001(b)(2), a charge for which he could receive up to four years in state prison. He was also charged with vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, without gross negligence, in violation of Penal Code § 191.5(b), a charge for which he also could be sentenced to up to four years in state prison. He was further charged with driving under the influence causing injury, in violation of Vehicle Code § 23153(a), and driving under the influence causing injury, with a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or higher, in violation of Vehicle Code § 23153(b). For both the 23153(a) and 23153(b) charges, there was a sentencing enhancement sought of three years under Penal Code § 12022.7(a) for causing great bodily injury.
Our office first had the client’s blood sample re-tested and the retest showed it was 0.075% BAC. We also requested and received a copy of the body-cam video of our client being interviewed immediately after the police contact, wherein our client showed he had no idea that he had struck a pedestrian.
Over the next six months, Greg made multiple appearances in the San Fernando Courthouse, including at and after the preliminary hearing. The District Attorney’s offer to resolve the case was for four years in state prison, which Greg considered unduly harsh considering the facts that our client’s BAC was arguably less than 0.08% and he had no awareness after the collision that he had a duty to stop at the scene. If anything, someone had just thrown a rock at his car, so our client was not going to invite more harm to himself. Moreover, if our client had known he had just struck a pedestrian, he would not go immediately thereafter to have a hamburger with his friends, as he would be concerned the damage to his car would be discussed.
Our client had worked for the same employer for 28 years, since graduating from UCLA. He was a solid citizen, married and cared for his disabled wife, who had suffered a stroke and was no longer able to work.
Our office and co-counsel had meetings with the handling prosecutor’s supervisor, as well as her supervisor. Finally, the prosecution agreed to a more reasonable offer of letting our client serve just 180 days in county jail, but otherwise plea to a violation of Penal Code § 191.5 and be placed on two years of formal probation. The client would also have to pay a fine of $390, plus penalties and assessments, enroll in and complete the three-month alcohol awareness program (the AB541 program) and attend the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) victim impact panel.
Our client was happy to resolve the case on such terms, as if he had proceeded to trial and lost on all counts, he faced nine years and four months in state prison, to be served at 85%.
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