Jury Acquits Driver Who Acted in Self-Defense When Confronted by Intoxicated Passengers


(From Press Release – SF Public Defender’s Office) – On February, 25, 2020, a jury acquitted a former Lyft driver, Vincent Perrault, 46, of assault charges related to an incident in which he acted in self-defense when confronted in the street by intoxicated passengers whom he asked to exit his car around 2:00am on December 27, 2016, after they were being disruptive and told him to, “shut up and drive.”

Deputy Public Defender Matthew Sotorosen said, “Mr. Perrault has no criminal history and was not looking for a fight when he asked the four passengers to exit his vehicle because it was unsafe for him to drive. The only reason he got out of the car was to close the door that they had left open, but three of them came after him in the street before he could do so.”

Sotorosen called an expert witness who testified that Mr. Perrault had had a “fear response” when three of the passengers came out into the street to confront him after he got out of the vehicle to
close the rear passenger door that they had left open upon exiting curbside. After a verbal altercation that involved some shoving, Mr. Perrault ended up hitting the two male passengers each once. One of the men fell back and hit his head on the pavement, which resulted in a herniated disc that later required surgery.

Mr. Perrault remained at the scene and answered questions from the police. There were segments of the body worn camera footage that had no audio, but it did show that the rear passenger door was still open. Police arrested Mr. Perrault that night, but he was released the next day and no charges were filed at the time.

Charges were only filed almost a year later, by which point Mr. Perrault was living out of state and was unaware of the warrant issued for his arrest in October 2017. He was re-arrested in May 2019, and had to return to San Francisco where public defender Sotorosen got him released pre-trial. However, he was subjected to electronic monitoring for several months, which made it difficult for him to obtain work and caused strain to his family and personal finances.

Sotorosen said, “We certainly take seriously the fact that someone was hurt, but the jury understood that Mr. Perrault had acted reasonably upon a survival instinct by defending himself from the perceived threat of being outnumbered and under attack.”

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