Most DUI attorneys would have plea bargained this case — bad driving, a .14 blood alcohol level — and thrown the client on the mercy of the court.
Manhattan Beach police officers stopped my client based on her erratic driving, took her to the police station and gave her a breath test — which registered at .14% for alcohol. Many DUI lawyers at this point would have pleaded the client guilty and plea bargained.
But I feel it’s important to do extensive discovery, which in this case included subpoenaing videotape from the police station of her breath test to see her condition and other circumstances at the time of the test, such as how was she standing and walking.
Police videos can dispel what the officer would have a jury believe
The police videotape showed the client at the breath machine prior to the administration of tests. There is a required 15-minute observation period during which there should be no regurgitation or bringing up of liquid or other gases which could contaminate breath test results.
But in the subpoenaed video, my client was heaving over a trashcan — one that the police officer gave her to use!
You could see that nothing was coming up. But you could also see — and the hearing officer noticed — that my client dabbed her mouth with a little napkin at the conclusion of this attempt to throw up.
During the court hearing the DMV subpoenaed an expert from the prosecutorial crime lab. I cross-examined the expert, and he testified that the video supported a possibility that this particular breath test was not valid because it did not comply with Title 17 (Title XVII). Since there’s “no foundation,” the .14% breath test reading could not be deemed accurate.
The result? The prosecution reduced the case to a Dry Reckless Driving charge with a small fine — a best case scenario given her driving — and the client later won her DMV hearing with no suspension of her license.