Trial Delayed In Autopilot DUI Case Involving LA Planning Commission Chairman

Los Altos Online reports that the trial for an LA Planning Commission chairman has been delayed once again. 

On November 30, 2018, at about 3:30 a.m., California Highway Patrol troopers noticed Los Altos Planning Commission Chairman Alexander Samek slumped over in the front seat of his Tesla Model S. The Tesla was in motion, barreling down Highway 101 in Redwood City. The officer called in for backup and got in front of the vehicle, slowing his speed. The Tesla’s autopilot function kicked in and the vehicle slowed until it came to a stop. 

Samek was charged with DUI and DUI with a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or higher. He was also charged with the enhancement of refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test. In January, Samek pleaded not guilty. On November 12th, Samek’s lawyer argued that police had no cause to stop Samek and his detainment was illegal. Therefore, all evidence obtained after he was detained was inadmissible. 

Prosecutors called in the two CHP officers to testify and presented video evidence of Samek slumped over in the driver’s seat. The argument to dismiss the evidence was denied by Judge Susan Greenberg. After the motion was denied, Samek’s attorney asked the judge for a continuance to mount a defense. 

Samek’s attorney is due back in court on December 4th for setting a pretrial conference and trial dates. 

In California, by obtaining a driver’s license, a driver agrees to something called implied consent. This means that if a law enforcement officer believes the driver is intoxicated, they are required by law to submit to testing. The first test usually given is the roadside breathalyzer, also called the PAS test. This test can be refused with no penalty. However, after the driver has been arrested, a formal breathalyzer test will be given. Refusing this test can result in more serious penalties if convicted of a DUI. The exact penalties depend upon whether the driver has a previous DUI conviction. For a first-time DUI, refusing the test can result in 48 extra hours of jail time and a 1-year license suspension. 

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