Los Altos planning commissioner pleads not guilty to misdemeanor DUI

Man pulled over in Tesla possibly on 'Autopilot,' failed sobriety test in Palo Alto

A Los Altos planning commissioner pleaded not guilty to a driving under the influence charge Wednesday after being found asleep in a moving Tesla in November on U.S. Highway 101 that was stopped in Palo Alto.

Alexander Samek, 45, was cited for two misdemeanors, DUI and DUI with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent or higher, and was told to appear in court on Friday.

Samek's attorney Josh Bentley instead filed a "paper arraignment" pleading not guilty on Wednesday, according to San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe. Bentley could not be reached for comment.

California Highway Patrol officers tried to stop Samek's Tesla Model S traveling at 70 mph on southbound Highway 101 at Whipple Avenue in Redwood City to conduct a DUI check shortly before 4 a.m. on Nov. 30.

They noticed Samek was asleep at the wheel and drove in front of the car at a close distance to activate the vehicle's automatic stopping system.

The Tesla came to a complete stop at 4:04 a.m. on southbound Highway 101 north of Embarcadero Road in Palo Alto after tailing the CHP vehicle for about 7 miles.

According to Wagstaffe, Samek refused a chemical test for DUI, and officers drew his blood in a "medically approved manner" after obtaining a warrant. His blood alcohol level registered as 0.12, after initially coming in at 0.14 on a preliminary test about an hour earlier.

Wagstaffe said Samek has no prior offenses. The planning commissioner will return to court for a pretrial hearing in April and a jury trial in May. The Los Altos Planning Commission declined to comment on the case.


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17 people like this
Posted by Well then...
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 3, 2019 at 8:37 pm

Flabbergasted that he's not getting any repercussions for it. Despicable.

5 people like this
Posted by Just Yank His License
a resident of Los Altos
on Jan 3, 2019 at 9:35 pm

Why would he plead guilty? That wouldn't be very bright...even for a planning commissioner.

The commissioner was apparently under the impression that a Tesla had an 'autopilot' feature and he was badly mistaken.

Curious and speaking of 'autopilot', can a Waymo driver be arrested for a DUI?

13 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 3, 2019 at 9:52 pm

Despicable behavior. This man should not hold any public office. Irresponsible individual.

Like this comment
Posted by H1B
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 4, 2019 at 5:26 pm

Tesla drivers know full well that Autopilot is a driver assist feature and not an autonomous system, but what people miss is that he almost definitely had no plans to fall asleep. He almost definitely would have driven had his car not had Autopilot, but he would have had a big accident. People don't need Autopilot to justify drunk driving. People who don't drive drunk aren't going to start just because their car has driver assist software. I don't want anybody to drive drunk, but I'm glad that his car was able to prevent an accident.

He could argue that he wasn't driving drunk because he was asleep and not driving at all, but I wouldn't expect a sympathetic judge.

2 people like this
Posted by The Fair Warning
a resident of Los Altos
on Jan 4, 2019 at 11:03 pm

This irresponsible idiot needs to step out of politics immediately. His drunken driving -- there is really no doubt, given the two breathalyzer results - risked the lives of the highway patrol, himself, and other drivers.

Samek is not qualified to sit in judgement on planning commission matters, when he lacks the discipline to avoid drunk driving. Step down now, or be fired in ignomy.

9 people like this
Posted by R.Davis
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 5, 2019 at 8:30 am

R.Davis is a registered user.

QUOTE: He could argue that he wasn't driving drunk because he was asleep and not driving at all, but I wouldn't expect a sympathetic judge.

^^^ DUI attorneys can concoct just about any excuse...Samek's attorney will probably even enter technological evidence citing Tesla's 'autopilot' capabilities in this particular situation.

If the attorney is successful, expect Tesla stock to go up. This case could provide another viable marketing opportunity for Mr. Musk & his company.

2 people like this
Posted by Tesla Owner
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 5, 2019 at 12:48 pm

At least he was asleep and operating a self-operating Tesla. Things could have been far worse.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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