Our client and his wife had been out to a party in Manhattan Beach, drinking and socializing with friends. Both our client, age 39, and his wife, age 35, had consumed their fair share of alcohol, but our client felt safe to drive home.
The couple had to pick up their five year old daughter, first, at a baby-sitter’s house before proceeding home. The client and his wife did so and had their daughter strapped into her car seat in the backseat. It was about 11:30 p.m.
As the couple drove to their South Torrance home, the wife fell asleep while seated in the front passenger seat.
Suddenly, as our client driving southbound down Palos Verdes Boulevard, a car turned onto Palos Verdes Boulevard from Lenore Avenue, right in front of our client, his wife and their daughter. Our client had to make a quick turn to avoid the other car and rolled their 2021 Honda Passport onto its side, causing it to slide into two parked cars on the corner of Palos Verdes Boulevard and Carson Avenue.
The noise of the collision caused a neighbor to look out his window and call the Torrance Police Department about the accident. Our client got out of the car and took his daughter out of the car first. His wife had woken up and climbed out of the car.
Police arrived and asked our client if he had been drinking and he said he had not, but, according to the police, he smelled strongly of alcohol. His wife was also quite intoxicated. Luckily, no one was injured.
Both our client and his wife were arrested. Our client was arrested for DUI and child endangerment; his wife was arrested for child endangerment. Our client’s mother in law had to come to the Torrance Police Station to pick up the daughter (her granddaughter).
At the police station, our client gave a breath sample of 0.15% and 0.17% BAC. Child protective services later contacted the grandmother and interviewed her.
When our client was released from jail the following day, he called Greg Hill & Associates and explained the facts of the case. It was our client’s first DUI and he had no prior criminal history. What he was most concerned with was the child endangerment charge, Penal Code § 237a(a), that he was cited for at the police station. Our client was outraged at this allegation against him because his daughter was not injured at all and accident was the fault of the other car who cut him off and then left the scene, perhaps never even knowing that he or she caused an accident.
Greg explained that what would most likely happen is that he would also be charged with a special allegation of violating Vehicle Code § 23572, DUI with a child 14 or under. Greg explained that when this is found true, there is a minimum of 48 hours in county jail that our client had to serve. Greg cautioned that this two days, however, may not be offered in plea negotiations because the client’s BAC was at twice the legal limit and there was a car accident, too.
The client retained Greg Hill & Associates and Greg appeared in court for the client. The initial offer to our client for a plea bargain was that our client enter a no contest plea to either a violation of Vehicle Code § 23152(a) or § 23152(b) and also Penal Code § 273a(a), “willfully endangering the safety of a child in circumstances likely to produce great bodily harm or death.” The client was also charged with a fourth count, a violation of Penal Code § 273a(b), “willfully endangering the safety of a child in circumstances not likely to produce great bodily injury or death.”
The terms of the first plea bargain were that our client would be placed on four years of summary, or informal probation, with an obligation to serve 45 days in county jail (for the child endangerment with an accident and having a high BAC), enroll in and complete the AB 1353 alcohol awareness program (for having a BAC over 0.15%), pay a court fine of $390 plus penalties and assessments (credit two days actual custody, or $250 toward the base fine of $390), and attend both the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) victim impact panel and the Hospital and Morgue (HAM) program.
While the case was pending, the Torrance City Prosecutor disclosed that one of the two City of Torrance Police Officers was fired due to misconduct in another case. The fired officer was the one who administered the breath test for our client at the station and had interviewed our client at the scene.
The issue then became whether the People would be able to proceed without this officer, but it was determined by the City of Torrance that the other officer observed the fired officer administering the breath test and could testify to the results and the procedures used. However, the contents of the interview with our client would be inadmissible because the other officer was interviewing our client’s wife while our client was being interviewed.
This left the case in an awkward position for proof at trial, so the prosecutor agreed to reduce the terms of the plea bargain to a plea to just Vehicle Code § 23152(a) or (b), with an admission to the driving with a minor under 14 in the car (Vehicle Code § 23572), and dismissal of both child endangerment charges.
Greg then negotiated a settlement with no jail for our client, but 80 hours (10 days) of community service, with all other terms the same as the initial offer. Our client was ecstatic to avoid jail, as he was quite anxious about serving 45 days in county jail and missing work, etc. Having the child endangerment charges dismissed was also greatly appreciated because in the family law case pending that arose from the DUI, the client’s child was being considered for foster care and having the child endangerment charges dismissed meant our client and his wife would regain custody of their child, so our client was very happy with this, too.
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