Torrance Wet Reckless for Client with a 0.11% BAC

Our client, age 22, was pulled over in Torrance at about 10:00 p.m. on a Sunday night for not having a front license plate and having dark tinted windows, a violation of Vehicle Code § 26708(a)(1).  This took place in a residential area with no street lights.  

If the reader of this summary is skeptical of such grounds for the traffic stop, when the officer makes the stop by pulling behind the suspect (how could he see the front license plate from behind the car?) and there is no ambient light to reveal the tinted windows, we were, too.

Officers pulled our client from the car, as they recognized him and his car from other incidents, and handcuffed him.  They then made him sit on a nearby curb.

To our office, this treatment and the officer’s recognition of our client’s car smacked of a pretextual stop.  In other words, they stopped him for an illegal reason, i.e. just because they knew he was often under the influence or had a controlled substance on him, but then developed legal reasons after the stop was made (but claimed these were the reasons for the stop).

Police noticed that our client’s eyes seemed bloodshot and watery, but did not ask our client if he was wearing contact lenses, which he was.  Police then conducted the horizontal gaze nystagmus test on our client while he was sitting down on the curb and determined he must be under the influence of alcohol.  No other field sobriety tests were administered.

Writing in their report that they had discovered “objective signs of intoxication,” they then asked our client, handcuffed and sitting down on the curb, if he had been drinking.  Our client admitted he had two beers earlier in the afternoon while watching a football game.

Officers then administered a portable alcohol screening (PAS) test at the scene, with our client still seated and handcuffed.  Our client’s breath registered a 0.11% blood alcohol content (BAC).

The client was then taken to the Torrance Police station, where he was booked and asked to submit to a second breath test on the Datamaster machine there.  The client did so and his BAC had dropped to 0.09% and 0.10%.

The client was released on his own recognizance the following morning after signing a promise to appear in the Torrance Courthouse in about two months.

He and his mom then contacted Greg Hill & Associates and spoke with Greg Hill about what happened.  Greg listened to the facts and explained how such cases are often handled in Torrance.

Greg then appeared on the client’s behalf in the Torrance Courthouse.  In negotiating with the Torrance City Prosecutor on this case, Greg Hill commented that he thought that a jury might be skeptical of the stated reasons for the traffic stop, given the location of the stop and that the officers never had a view of the front of the car before the stop.  Greg also pointed out that the only field sobriety test given (other than the PAS) was the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test and that is was given improperly.  Both the PAS and the HGN tests are supposed to be given with the client standing up.  Greg Hill also presented research materials that showed a horizontal gaze nystagmus test was supposed to be given with a suspect standing up and that PAS tests are also supposed to be given with a standing subject.  

Moreover, since the BAC was rather low and it was our client's first DUI, Greg suggested that the case be dismissed, or at the very least resolved for reckless driving, rather than DUI.  

The Torrance City Prosecutor agreed in principal that such problems were issues, but would not dismiss the case.  Instead, she offered our client a wet reckless, which our client accepted.  

This was a good thing for our client because this meant that the court would not advise the DMV that our client had been convicted of DUI, so the DMV would not order a suspension of our client’s driver’s license in addition to whatever action it took at the DMV hearing, which our client won.

For more information about DUI, please click on the following articles:
  1. What Punishment Do I Face for First-Time DUI?
  2. Ten Things to Do If Stopped for DUI
  3. Why Is a “Wet Reckless” Better Than a DUI?
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