DUI arrests in Los Angeles during the holidays are more frequent than just about any other period. Because people tend to consume alcohol more around this time of year, LAPD and other local law enforcement agencies (like the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department) tend to step up their efforts to catch drunk drivers. For example,
When attending a Laker game last year during the holidays, I made my way home through downtown towards a freeway, when I along with numerous other drivers, were suddenly stopped by a bright light that was set up next to a large semi-trailer. I then was approached by a police officer who asked me where I had come from and if I had been drinking. Luckily, I was not under the influence, did not have to get out of my car and proceeded home. However, many other drivers were not so lucky and they were taken outside their vehicle, given a field sobriety test and in most cases were asked to take a breath test in the mobile DUI trailer the officers had set up. In many of those cases persons were arrested, charged with DUI and had to face criminal charges for the first time in their lives in Los Angeles Superior Court which can be very scary to a person who has never be involved in the criminal justice system. The best thing one can do after being arrested for DUI is to seek the advice of an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can in many cases obtain a positive result including a dismissal of charges depending on the facts of each case.
1. DUI Checkpoints
Most person know that during the holidays including Christmas and New Year’s Eve, throughout California including Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, local law enforcement often set up DUI checkpoints also known as sobriety checkpoints in order to detain persons driving under the influence of alcohol.
It appears that there is a common perception that one cannot challenge a DUI arrest if it is made pursuant to a detention at a DUI checkpoint. This notion is not true and an experienced DUI criminal defense lawyer should look into all of the Constitutional protections provided by the 4th Amendment to protect the rights of persons detained and searched by the Government including persons stopped at DUI checkpoints.
In order for a police officer to stop a vehicle, they must have reasonable suspicion to stop you as required by the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution. Although, speeding, changing lanes and weaving or in itself not proof of driving under the influence, it is enough reasonable suspicion for an officer to stop a defendant as it is evidence of a traffic violation. For a police officer to arrest a person for DUI, there needs to be probable cause that a person is driving under the influence. Such probable cause usually occurs from the officers observations of a defendant including driving, speech impairment, odor of alcohol on a person’s breath and how a person performs on a Field Sobriety Test (FSTs).
As indicated above, rules regarding DUI checkpoints can be challenged and or subject to Constitutional restrictions. Dui checkpoints do not vitiate the rule set forth above that police cannot detain a person without reasonable suspicion or arrest a person for DUI without probable cause. In order for a DUI/Sobriety checkpoint to be constitutional it must meet certain criteria set forth in rulings by the United States Supreme Court based upon the United States Constitution. The criteria for a lawful DUI checkpoint include: 1. Law Enforcement needs to provide a proper justification in advance for setting up a checkpoint in a certain area including a quantifiable risk to the public such as an area that has a consistent history of accidents or numerous arrests for DUI 2. A Checkpoint must be clearly visible and displayed in such a fashion to give clear warning to a driver in advance of getting to a checkpoint such as bright lights, safety road flares and/or visible safety cones.
Determining likelihood of a successful defense based on an improper stop and arrest requires an experienced DUI lawyer. An experienced DUI lawyer may file a motion to suppress if a stop and/or arrest lacks reasonable suspicion and probable cause which if successful will lead to dismissal of charges in cases where a person is stopped in a routine traffic case or pursuant to a DUI checkpoint.
2. Other Defenses to DUI Charges in California
Whether stopped at a DUI/Sobriety checkpoint during the holidays or arrested for DUI during a routine traffic stop, there are many viable defenses that apply in the majority of DUI cases which an experienced DUI attorney can possible use to get DUI charges reduced or dismissed. Some of these defenses include the following:
a. “Rising Blood Alcohol Defense.” Perhaps the most well known and commonly used defense is the rising blood alcohol or I was drinking shortly before driving defense. Alcohol takes time absorb into a person’s blood stream. As such, a person may be sober or under 0.08 blood alcohol level while driving but under the influence over 0.08 at the time the are tested after arrest. The most viable blood alcohol defenses occur when an accused is stopped or found close to their destination so it can be shown that when they arrived at their destination they were not under the influence or driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher. In many instances in California a person is given two breath tests, one directly after being stopped called a PAS (preliminary alcohol screening) test and a breathalyzer test at the station. A rising blood alcohol defense can be won many times when the second breath test read out his higher than the first PAS test.
b. Have a drink after you have been driving defense to DUI. A typical drinking after driving DUI defense is when someone is involved in an accident or their car break-down and shortly thereafter they go into a bar or liquor store to acquire and consume alcohol. In many of these situations, there will be a receipt to establish that the alcohol purchase occurred after driving. Moreover, a viable defense to DUI occurs if a store clerk or bartender will testify that the accused was not or did not appear to be intoxicated. Some people accused of DUI have a drink as soon as they get home but this defense is hard to win as it is based largely on the credibility of the accused with no corroborating evidence.
c. “I was not Driving” defense. In many cases persons are convicted of DUI even though the police did not see them driving. There is no legal requirement that a police officer witness a person driving in order to be convicted of DUI. Many times on officer arrives on the scene of an accident where the accused is already out of his vehicle which doesn’t preclude the accused from being arrested for DUI. The best “I was not Driving” defense occurs when a third party witness can corroborate that a person accused of DUI was not driving.
d. Failure to follow procedures under Title 17 for DUI breath tests. Under California Code of Regulations title 17, police officers are required to observe a defendant for at least 15 minutes before giving a breath test at a police station. If an officer fails to follow the procedures in Title 17, an accused can use this as part of their successful defense to a DUI charge. Other errors including failure to calibrate or maintain equipment in compliance with the California Code of Regulations can be used as a defense to a DUI charge.
e. Acid Reflux & GERD DUI Defenses. It is difficult but not impossible to win a DUI case using a “mouth alcohol” defense as a result of acid reflux or hearburn. This is because the officers wait at least 15 minutes after an arrest to administer a breath test and a misreading will usually not occur after 15 minutes since such a condition does not dissipate after minutes as it is part of a person’s internal bodily fucntions. At a minimum, a person will need to show that they are under a doctor’s care or receiving treatment to have a viable defense.
If Arrested for DUI During the Holidays, It is Best To Retain A California Drunk Driving Defense Lawyer
Obviously, the best way to avoid being arrested for DUI is not to drink while driving or not to drive while drinking. In many cities in California including Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino county, many persons rely on their vehicle for basic transportation and most believe they are not under the influence after having one or two drinks over a period of time at a holiday party or other holiday event. Unfortunately, many of those persons are stopped at a DUI checkpoint or routine traffic stopped and are charged with DUI which in many instances can detrimentally change their life including leading to a driver’s license suspension, job loss or prison time If another party is seriously injured or killed. However, a person arrested for DUI has many options to successfully defend such a charge and an experienced DUI attorney should be contacted after an arrest.