Felony DUI Causing Paralysis: NOT GUILTY

Oct 28, 2020 | DUI, Wins

Mr. Griffin was retained after a client was arrested and charged with the following:

The client was driving Westbound on Broadway in El Cajon, took a left turn on Cherrywood Way, and was immediately broadsided by a motorcyclist. The motorcyclist was paralyzed from the neck down and can no longer speak. The collision was caught on surveillance video. After the accident, the client grabbed his girlfriend, who was bleeding and had glass in her eye, and ran two blocks to his apartment. Once home, he called 911 and reported his car stolen.

Once the El Cajon Police Department showed up at his apartment, he admitted to fleeing and cooperated with everything. He admitted to smoking pot three times that day and drinking Courvoisier 45 mins before driving. His blood was drawn two hours after the accident and came back at 11.6 ng/mL of marijuana, 8 ng/mL of Xanax, and .05 Blood Alcohol Content. The client was a 30-year-old black disabled Marine combat vet with a well-documented diagnosis of PTSD.

The client had no prior arrests, no traffic tickets, and carried an obvious amount of regret and shame about the fact that someone was left paralyzed.

The District Attorney proceeded on three Counts at trial (if convicted, the client faced 14 years in prison):

  • Vehicle Code § 23153(g) – Driving Under the Influence of Drugs Causing Injury with the special allegation causing paralysis
  • Vehicle Code § 20001(a) – Hit and Run with Injury
  • Penal Code § 148.5(c) – False Police Report of Crime

Mr. Griffin’s aggressive cross-examinations of the People’s chief witnesses were the key to the victory. The first cross-examination of the girlfriend of the client and passenger during the crash deemed her to be incredibly unreliable, due to Mr. Griffin’s questioning tactics before the jury, resulting in this witness giving different statements under oath than her previously on-record statements during the Preliminary Hearing.

Second, the officer who administered all the Field Sobriety Tests on the client admitted on the witness stand that he only did 4 of the 12 required steps, and he had to admit that he could not form an opinion on whether the client was impaired. While being cross-examined, the District Attorney’s “expert” testified that she could not determine impairment based on the drug levels alone. Mr. Griffin used those two pieces of testimony to drive home the point during the closing argument that there was no proof of impairment beyond a reasonable doubt. If the levels didn’t show impairment, then he needed something else.

Mr. Griffin immediately focused on the DUI with injury charges, the most serious charges of the whole case, and whether or not the People could prove beyond a reasonable doubt if the client were actually under the influence during the time of driving and the accident. Since the Blood Alcohol Content was well below the legal limit, Mr. Griffin focused on marijuana and Xanax.

PTSD and medical marijuana were huge issues. The client’s Humvee hit an IED in Afghanistan, and he had to drag his fellow soldiers to safety. Mr. Griffin highlighted the obvious parallels to this situation. The Griffin Law Firm expert was able to testify about drug interactions with the human body, about the PTSD, and about the client smoking medical marijuana to get to his homeostasis, not to get “stoned.” Mr. Griffin was able to obtain a prestigious toxicologist expert who testified in the trial that the levels of these narcotics did not sanctify driving under the influence. That, along with Mr. Griffin’s elaborate explanation of the exceptions of the client due to his military and medical history, enabled Mr. Griffin to convince the jury at trial that it was a reasonable explanation for the lab reports showing drug use.

The DA’s questioning of the client on cross-examination opened the door for Mr. Griffin to have the Client speak some powerful words on re-direct to the victim’s ten family members in the audience who were present throughout the trial.

Although this trial was an uphill battle for the client, who was looking at 14 years in prison, the verdict returned with a hung jury on the DUI 10-2. Mr. Griffin made a motion to dismiss the Felony DUI charge due to the fact that 10 jurors voted not guilty. The judge granted the motion to dismiss and Mr. Griffin’s client was given probation for the hit and run.