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Driver Takes Passed-out Passenger to a Motel: Was His Arrest a Rush to Judgment?

Recently, a San Fernando Valley-based independent driver for the rideshare service Uber was arrested after being suspected of criminal activity involving a woman too drunk to tell him where she wanted to go.

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Frederick Dencer, 32, of Encino, was charged on suspicion of kidnapping with intent to commit sexual assault, according to LAPD Lt. Paul Vernon. 1

The driver was held in custody after the woman called 911 to complain that she had awoken in a motel room in Panorama City early in the morning following a night of bar-hopping. The woman was alarmed to discover she was lying next to a shirtless man. She told police investigators she didn’t know how she got there.

An Uber spokesman said the company learned of the incident through the media and has suspended the driver’s account. According to an Uber spokesman, Dencer was not logged in to operate as an Uber driver at the time of the incident. 2

Not Enough Evidence to Prosecute the Driver, D.A.’s Office Says

The alleged incident unfolded after a valet employee at a West Hollywood nightclub told Dencer to drive the 26-year-old woman home, police said. According to police reports, the woman was so intoxicated, she could not tell the driver where she lived. The driver never collected a fare from the drunken woman and instead drove her to the motel. She told police she woke up about 6 a.m. Monday to find Dencer next to her. 3

Surveillance footage from the motel confirmed that the driver carried the passed-out woman into the room. However, there was nothing in the video to prove he sexually assaulted her. Although he invited her to stay with him, according to the woman’s statement, there was no evidence that the driver attempted to restrain her from leaving.

Prosecutors dropped the charges against Dencer after determining there was not enough evidence to charge him with kidnapping or sexually assaulting the woman. 4

Was This a Rush to Judgment?

Unfortunately, this situation presented the driver with an awkward choice of what to do with a passenger who was too intoxicated to tell him where to take her. What was he supposed to do with her? Leave her out on the streets?

Perhaps he should have just refused the fare and left the passenger to the next driver. But then, someone had to take responsibility for her since she was unable to care for herself. Who should that be? The bar management? After all, bartenders served her to the point where she eventually passed out.

Law enforcement’s reaction of arresting the driver for serious criminal charges without supporting evidence was inappropriate. More in- depth investigation was needed in this case to determine all of the facts. The LAPD simply failed to do a professional job to distinguish an awkward situation from an alleged crime.

What Does Wallin & Klarich Think?

Law enforcement agencies in this country have a tough job to do. Protecting the public is their professional responsibility and we are dependent on the police for our safety. Yet, we as individuals are concerned with remaining free from unreasonable arrest. Law enforcement agencies sometimes ignore this fundamental right in the course of their duties.
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Just being accused of a crime is more than enough to give you a bad stigma. Sadly, this is a reality that our attorneys see all too often, which is why we urge you to remain silent and contact a lawyer if you are suspected of a crime.

We must hold police more accountable for affording due process prior to making an arrest. In the present case involving the Uber driver, the police got it wrong. Fortunately, prosecutors recognized this and dropped the charges, but not before the man spent a few days locked up while the matter was sorted out.

Contact Wallin & Klarich Today Before You Speak to the Police

If you or someone you love is suspected in a criminal matter, we strongly recommend that you contact our experienced criminal defense attorneys at Wallin & Klarich right away.

Our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have been protecting the constitutional rights of our clients for over 30 years. If you are ever contacted for questioning by the police, we urge you to politely invoke your right to remain silent and let our knowledgeable attorneys do the talking for you. In a criminal investigation, you are not obligated to answer any questions without legal representation.

With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, our experienced criminal defense attorneys at Wallin & Klarich are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to provide you with knowledgeabl legal representation. We will help you get the best possible result in your case.

Call us today at (888) 280-6839 for a free telephone consultation. We will get through this together.


1. [Los Angeles Times: “Uber driver accused of kidnapping clubgoer, taking her to motel”; http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-uber-driver-kidnapping-hotel-20140603-story.html]
2. [Id.]
3. [Id.]
4. [Los Angeles Times: “Uber driver not charged in alleged kidnap but still barred from job”; http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-uber-driver-in-alleged-kidnapping-account-20140605-story.html]
5. [“Uberlogo” by Kobolen – Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Uberlogo.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Uberlogo.jpg]

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Wallin & Klarich was established in 1981. Over the past 32 years, our law firm has helped tens of thousands of families in their time of legal need. Regardless of whether our clients faced criminal or DUI charges, the loss of their driving privilege, or wanted to clean up their criminal record, we have been there to help them.