Tuesday, April 28, 2020
Court of Appeal:
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district has affirmed the denial of a writ of administrative mandamus sought by a Los Angeles police officer who was fired for driving to work, and showing up for duty, while under the influence of narcotic drugs, rejecting his contention that there was no evidence he drove while intoxicated because he was not observed doing so.
Justice Thomas Willhite of Div. Four wrote the opinion, filed Friday and not certified for publication. It upholds a judgment by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Amy D. Hogue who denied relief to the officer, Justin Kravetz.
Returning to work after being out on medical leave, Kravetz admits driving from his home in Long Beach to the Valley Traffic Division (“VTD”) on March 10, 2015. He had taken several prescription medications that day.
It was determined that he was intoxicated. The Board of Rights, after a hearing, recommended that he be fired, and the then-chief of police agreed.
“The fact that no evidence was presented at the Board hearing that Departmental personnel actually observed Kravetz operating his vehicle is unimportant. Taken together, the informed opinions of seasoned police officers (at least two of whom had significant expertise in recognizing drug impairment) constitute ample evidence to support a conclusion that Kravetz was significantly impaired and would have been unable safely to operate a vehicle when he reported for duty.”
The jurist went on to say:
“Kravetz contends that evidence of his intoxicated driving is insufficient to support the discipline imposed because that evidence would not have been sufficient to prove he committed a violation of the Vehicle Code. The premise itself is questionable: it is not at all clear that the evidence would not support a criminal conviction.”
He went on to say:
“Here, Kravetz drove to VTD in uniform, intoxicated and on an expired license, and reported for work under the influence of a controlled substance. This evidence was sufficient to justify the Board’s recommendation that Kravetz be ‘removed from his position’ as an officer of the Department. The trial court said it well: ‘[C]onsidering the severity of the harm that could have been caused by [Kravetz], the evidence supporting the Department’s charges, and the care with which the Board weighed the evidence,’ it is clear that the Department did not abuse its discretion by discharging Kravetz.”
Kravetz was ordered to submit to a blood test on the day he arrived at work in an apparently intoxicated state. Two tests of the sample showed the presence of narcotics.
He argued that Hogue must be reversed because he was denied his right, under a memorandum of understanding between the city and the Los Angeles Police Protective League, to have a portion of the sample tested by an independent laboratory.
“Perhaps, as Kravetz argues, an independent blood test might have shown that the drugs in Kravetz’s system were prescribed by his physician and that he had not exceeded the prescribed dosage. However, even so, the key issue (as the trial court recognized) was whether Kravetz drove while under the influence of narcotics. It did not matter whether the drugs causing his impairment were prescribed and appropriately dosed….[T]here was more than sufficient evidence to support the finding of impairment.
“Second, the Board’s recommendation was not based solely (or even primarily) on the results of the two positive drug tests. The Board (and later, the trial court) found sufficient evidence to support its disciplinary recommendation, even without test results, based on the collective objective observations of expert officers that Kravetz was unable to perform the duties of a police officer as a result of his intoxication.”
The case is Kravetz v. City of Los Angeles, B292241.
Kravetz was a defendant in a civil rights action filed June 21, 2013 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California by as man who claimed he was illegally arrested and was beaten by Kravetz and another officer. The City of Los Angeles settled the action for $137,500.
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